Trend Alert: Meat Alternatives

Trend Alert: Meat AlternativesTrend Alert: Meat Alternatives

In a world where meat seems to reign supreme, there sure is a lot of chatter around meat alternatives. Here, we’re exploring the growing trend of plant-based protein—and what that means for the restaurant industry. Think you’re ready to dip your toe into the meat-free zone? Read on.

Americans love meat. It seems like every year, we’re setting a record for how much meat and poultry we consume. But as much as our obsession with meat remains strong, creeping in from the sidelines is our environmental awareness. We’re becoming more and more conscious of the impact our meat consumption has on our environment, as well as livestock’s likely impact on climate change (did you know “there are over 30 million beef cows in the US, and 21 million pigs in Iowa alone” according to CB Insights?). There are also the links meat has to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to consider. This, along with developments in technology that enable us to mimic the texture, taste, and nutrition of animal-based products, have led to consumers diving into the trend of meat alternatives.

Consider Beyond Meat, the company that claims to be “The Future of Protein.” Established in 2009 and going public at the end of May 2019, Beyond Meat is sold at such establishments as Whole Foods. According to Market Watch, Beyond Meat “is expecting the alternative meat category to become a multibillion-dollar market over time and to take significant share from the $1.4 trillion global market for meat.” Long gone are the days when Tofurkey was the only player in the game: Plant-based proteins have gotten more and more convincing, producing such brands as Quorn, Field Roast, and Morning Star Farms.

Recently joining the meat-alternative ballgame is Tyson Foods, which is arguably one of the world’s largest meat producers (you know and love them for their chicken). Tyson announced in June they would be releasing chicken-free chicken nuggets, hoping to appeal to the growing swath of flexitarians in the U.S.

This is all a growing trend—and something very exciting for those who dropped meat before a “meat-free diet” hit the mainstream. As reported by Progressive Grocer, “In the 52 weeks ending Nov. 4, 2018, sales of plant-based meat alternatives grew 20.2 percent in both frozen and refrigerated sections across channels, up to $798.6 million.”

For a variety of reasons, consumers are more and more open to the idea of eating less meat. But have restaurants caught up to the trend yet? True, we’ve been able to buy veggie burgers at Burger King  for years. But have you ever seen a commercial for it? It’s not out of the question to suggest restaurants are sheepish to advertise their meat-free options. But with more and more companies joining the pack of plant-based proteins, this might be the perfect time for your restaurant to get out in front of the herd. Vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians are tired of their same-old-same-old menu options when they go out. The easy solution for restaurants is to offer meat-free pasta dishes and salads to satiate these palates, but those who subscribe to these lifestyles are craving something more. With a section devoted to the latest in meat alternatives, you’re sure to attract a whole new level of customer. And thanks to social media, those who appreciate your devotion to the meatless meal will pay you back in the form of public content.

From tempeh to seitan, jackfruit to pea protein, plant-based meat alternatives are about to take the restaurant industry by storm. Tentative about making the investment? Host a taste-test event at your restaurant and invite customers to a blind test of some meat alternatives. Welcome carnivores and vegans alike to get a robust set of palates and see how these offerings go over. The best way to determine whether to add an item to your menu is to go directly to the source—your consumer.

Adding a new menu item or category is never a decision to take lightly, but our restaurant experts at ARF Financial are ready to offer their advice. And if you find making this leap to meat-free options could initially cut into profits, it’s worth considering a risk-free Line of Credit from ARF Financial. Visit us to get funding in 3 easy steps so you can get ahead of the meat-free trend.