From the “Impossible Whopper” at Burger King to meatless chicken at KFC, businesses everywhere are starting to offer a wide variety of plant-based meat alternatives. People all over the world are starting to see the real benefits of eating less animal meat and focusing more on a plant-based diet. As you take a walk through the everyday grocery store, you’ll now find more plant-based options than you've ever seen before. But as plant-based food is becoming more common at grocery stores and fast-food stops, it is also hitting the scene at many restaurants across the country.
With the prediction that plant-based meat is around to stay, let’s take a bite out of the new meatless trend and consider what it means for the restaurant and fast-food industries.
What is Plant-Based Meat?
Are you new to this whole meatless thing? Not even sure how meatless “meat” is even possible? Well, it all starts with plants. We live in a world where we can do some pretty incredible things with plants. As it turns out, plants can mimic the taste and consistency of meat extremely well. According to Johnson & Wales online professor Douglas Stuchell, many people have begun to try their hand in this whole new world of possibilities. “Innovative chefs are creating meat alternative menu items such as the watermelon ham and watermelon steak,” he says. Concepts like this have garnered so much attention that even major food chains are giving a swing at the trend. TGI Fridays, a popular international restaurant chain, piloted their very own take of the watermelon steak for the month of January, dubbing it “Veganuary,” by offering the item in restaurants throughout the United Kingdom. “Most people think of watermelon as a sweet dish, but we have flipped that on its head. It is full of flavor and perfect for Veganuary and those who want to try something different,” said TGI Fridays Head Development Chef Terry McDowell.
Plant-based meat can be made from many different things by using plant proteins or soy proteins. Pea protein and rice protein are a few other ingredients also commonly used in this fake meat.
What’s the Hype About?
So you may be wondering, “What’s so great about plant-based meat? What is wrong with regular meat?” In short, there’s a trend for the general public to want to eat better for both themselves and the environment so a meatless, plant-based diet is a step in that direction. Not only are no animals harmed when creating meatless meat, but plants have been proven to be very beneficial to our health. In addition to plant-based diets being good for us, they’re also good for the world we live in. In a time where sustainability is on many people’s minds, a plant-based diet can help reduce a person's carbon footprint.
According to a report from the United Nations, it’s estimated that 23% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of livestock. In that same report, researchers found that they have high confidence that through more people switching to plant-based diets would “present major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
What this Means for Restaurants
As meat alternatives continue to grow in popularity, culinary specialists are starting to learn more about plant-based meat cooking. Restaurants are starting to hop on board to please their customers with this plant-based meat trend. The plant-based brand, Impossible Foods, has already hit the scene by offering the popular “Impossible Whopper” at Burger King. Although it all started with selling burgers, there are now even more meatless options to choose from such as chicken or sausage. Impossible Foods began bringing their products to Mexican restaurant, Qdoba. Meanwhile their competitor, Beyond Meat, has been selling their products to restaurants such as Subway, Del Taco, and KFC.
From a restaurant standpoint, this plant-based meat trend opens up a whole new door of opportunity. Restaurant operators can now attract different types of eaters: those who never eat meat and those who enjoy meat but are curious about the alternatives. Now restaurants can offer options that can please the appetite of all of their customers.
An Uphill Battle for Plants
Although meat alternatives are beginning to make some huge power moves in the foodservice industry, plant-based meat is only making a small impact at the moment. Compared to the total protein market in the world, meat alternatives only account for a small fraction. In fact, despite the rise in plant-based meat alternatives, the consumption of meat in the United States is expected to rise in 2020. As the industry is making strides to offer more meatless options to the masses, some long-standing meat moguls have been conducting their own experiments in the kitchen. “Tyson, Cargil and most other large meat-manufacturing companies are investing or outsourcing millions of dollars in research and development of animal-based protein products in order to avoid market disruption and loss of market share and profit,” Stuchell added.
What Happens from Here?
As we race into the new decade, things are looking very promising for restaurants making the change to a meat-alternative product. While restaurants and fast-food chains are focused on giving customers what they want, you can expect to see more and more plant-based options on menus across the United States. In fact, we might even start to see more plant-based meat restaurants that strictly sell meatless dishes. People are starting to realize the key benefits of a plant-based diet, so meatless food production will continue to soar to new heights while restaurants will offer meatless options that cost less and taste incredible.
Want to learn more about plant-based meat cooking? Interested in a culinary career? Learn more about earning your bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management by contacting us today. For more information, complete the “Request Info” form on this page, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].