Sysco Corporation, an international foodservice distributor based in Houston, introduced Sysco Simply, an on-trend platform developed to help its customers cater to the expanding consumer demand for dietary and lifestyle food solutions.
Based on customer insights, feedback and foodservice industry trends, Sysco Simply's first area of focus is plant-based dining, which encompasses vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian and plant-based protein products.
Plant-based preparations are rapidly gaining in popularity in the US. According to research firm Technomic, 49% of consumers are likely or extremely likely to order dishes described as plant-based. Meanwhile, NPD Group finds that 70% are substituting a non-meat protein in a meal at least once a week.
Understanding customers' needs
“Sysco understands our customers' need to keep pace with changing consumer preferences and the growing demand and marketability of plant-based products that meet those needs,” says Brian Todd, Sysco's senior vice president of merchandising. “Whether it's protein-alternative or better-for-you ingredients, we are committed to providing our customers with innovative, versatile and easy-to-use product solutions.”
For example, Sysco Simply features the following plant-based products with accompanying recipes and serving ideas:
Sysco Simply Plant-Based Meatballs. Packed with 100-percent plant-based protein, Sysco Simply Plant Based-Meatballs elevate any recipe. These versatile and satisfying meatless alternatives readily accept different sauces, from a traditional spaghetti to unique multicultural twists like Korean glazed or chipotle blend. Containing 14g of protein per three-meatball serving, these plant-based meatballs provide hearty choices for vegan and vegetarian applications, making the choice simple.
Beyond Meat® Beyond Sausage®. Meatless sausage prepared with plant-based-ingredients are available in three varieties: Original Brat, Sweet Italian and Hot Italian. These veggie-centric products can supplement traditional sausage.
Path of Life 5-Grain Blend. This premium ancient grain blend of red and white quinoa, barley, wild rice and wheat berries provides chefs with a flavorful base for countless dishes. According to market research firm NPD, 70% of consumers say they're trying to eat more grains.
Path of Life Pulse Mélange. A gluten-free blend of pulses — beans, lentils and legumes — and vegetables flavored with garlic, olive oil, basil and red wine vinegar can add taste to any dish.
Unsweetened Almondmilk. A non-dairy beverage containing plant-based power. This beverage can be added to cereal, smoothies, coffee, baked goods and other items to satisfy a variety of dietary needs.
Vegetable-forward cuisine ranked among the Top trends on the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast. Sysco Simply's Insider's Report suggests that rather than marketing plant-based dishes as a menu alternative, restaurateurs should treat them as additions. In that way, operators will attract a larger consumer group.
Simple choices
Sysco says it is seeking to offer the widest range of dietary options for customers to choose from while meeting specific standards with regard to ingredient statements and nutritional labeling. So whether the purpose is to elevate a menu or remain on trend, Sysco is striving to make the choice simple for customers.
Sysco Foodie, the company's premier publication, also addresses the plant-forward movement in its Southeast Winter issue. In the article entitled “What's Cooking Across the Country,” chef David Knickrehm, Culinary Consultant, Sysco Idaho, observes, “In Idaho, a large portion of our population is defiantly carnivorous. Yet even here the message is starting to sink in: We might want to eat healthier.
“Chefs known for serving steaks and chops are coming into the Sysco Operating Company for business reviews and asking about meatless alternatives such as Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage,” Knickrehm says. “Veggie wings made of fried, dusted cauliflower are popping up on menus, and sweet potato tacos are no longer just for vegetarians.”
Reinventing ethnic cuisines
In the same article, Benjamin Udave, executive chef, Sysco Pacific Market, says, “Chefs are reinventing ethnic cuisines such as Mexican, substituting the proteins in their dishes with vegetables and fruits like cauliflower, coconut and jackfruit. If you take something like jackfruit you can marinate it, dehydrate it and cook it in a chile sauce, and it will pick up the flavor of the chiles. I've seen vegan pozole, vegan ceviche. You can never entirely replace meat, but creative chefs are trying.”
In its Holiday Cheer issue, Sysco Foodie also explores the topic in “Plunge into Plant-based Proteins.” The article notes, “Not long ago, if you wanted to eat more veggies but still craved a juicy hamburger, you could suffer through a dry puck consisting of flavorless seeds or settle for a grilled portobello mushroom squeezed in a bun. Thankfully, options have greatly expanded. The watchword of the moment: plant-based proteins.”
In the meantime, Sysco says it is committed to expanding its ability to meet customers' needs in the face of changing consumer preferences.
Sysco Simply delivers flavorful food options, recipes and nutritional information that reflect preferences towards mindful lifestyles. Building on core values and 2025 Responsibility Goals, Sysco Simply further expands its portfolio of products with health and wellness benefits.