The plant-based food trend is exploding across sectors as people of all generations strive to improve their personal health and minimize the environmental impact of their diets.
Yet health and wellness are only half of the story when it comes to plant-based foods. Consumers and the food industry are now recognizing the opportunity that veg-based options present in terms of versatility, exposure to new flavor profiles and evolving the way we eat.
Let’s take a deeper dive into four emerging insights rooted in the plant-based foods boom.
1. Drive Versatility
The possibilities are endless when innovating with veggies, and chefs are discovering some vegetables lend themselves to even more creativity and versatility than animal proteins.
Potatoes, legumes, cauliflower and mushrooms, for example, are blank canvases for flavor and offer a variety of textural options. Readymade versions of trendy plant-based dishes gaining popularity in foodservice are proving to be a hit with consumers. Restaurant patrons may enjoy a Buffalo Cauliflower appetizer when dining out but feel intimidated to prepare it at home, which presents a great opportunity for food manufacturers.
The produce industry is meeting consumer demand for convenience and innovation by offering value-added vegetables in exciting formats that replicate familiar flavors—for example, consider spiralized vegetables, cauli-rice and crinkle cut fresh potatoes.
2. Offer Stealth Health
Veggies are being incorporated into prepared foods to boost nutrient density. If you look at the new line of Oprah’s “O, That’s Good” prepared sides and soups, you’ll see that it includes butternut squash, beans and other wholesome foods. These help improve the nutritional profile of beloved comfort foods like mac and cheese.
With food sensitivities on the rise, manufacturers are turning to veggies to replace ingredients that are common allergens. We are seeing potato and cauliflower pizza crusts and flatbreads to accommodate gluten-free diets. These more healthful options also are experiencing wide appeal among consumers who crave more nutritional bang from their food.
3. Entice New Flavors
Satisfying comfort foods like potatoes and beans are blank canvases for flavor and common ingredients in global cuisines.
We have seen Lay’s use potato chips as a vehicle to entice consumers to try kimchi and other exotic flavors. This proves that if consumers are familiar with the food itself, they are willing to push outside of their comfort zone on the flavor.
Americans are also embracing ethnic cuisines with a long tradition of vegetarian cooking. Indian classics such as Vegetable Korma, Paneer Tikka and more are staples in the frozen food aisle of mainstream grocery stores.
4. Share of Plate
Innovation in plant-based cuisine is shaking up the composition of our meal plate. We are seeing veg-centric center-of-the-plate concepts like cauliflower steak, potato “scallops” and portabella burgers rapidly growing in popularity.
Animal proteins are also being used more sparingly to impart flavor, rather than serving as the main dish. Chefs are adding a little bacon or pork fat to infuse flavor into sautéed greens, rice dishes and roasted veggies.
When it comes to plant-based innovation, food manufacturers will benefit from ingredients that are satiating and versatile. Potatoes, legumes and other root vegetables add volume and value while presenting endless options for flavor and texture.
For more potato inspiration, product development resources and nutrition information, visit www.potatogoodness.com.