Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Vegan Bandwagon Has Arrived Time to Get Onboard


Do you know what your customers are ordering from the restaurant next door?  Well according to DataEssential four times as many operators are planning to add plant-based meat to the menu in 2023 than did so last year.

Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, stated, “consumers have spoken they like many of the new vegan options and they believe vegan food has the ‘halo’ of better-4-you and they want to try more and more vegan meal options.”

Johnson recently spoke with Joe Hehl, Foodservice Sales Manager of Upton's Naturals. Here is some of what you just might want to know:

Johnson, What flavor profile do you see consumers adopting looking forward to 2024?

Hehl, With the popularity of Yuzu in 2023 and speculating that acidity will continue to grow in 2024, we think consumers will be interested in relishes and pickled fruits - vegetables in general, but more specifically I think Guava will be the big one next year. We’re seeing increased interest as well in clean – real ingredients, like the flavorful spices we use in our vegan pastrami and gyro seitan, for example, vs. “natural” flavors.
Johnson, It the fast-food category, what are the top two new vegan handheld foods you see rolling out?

Hehl, Not necessarily new, but plant based 'chicken wings' seem to be having a moment currently. Considering the endless variety of ways you can dress a wing, there is plenty of headroom for both flavor innovation and making proprietary, vegan versions of existing recipes. Upton’s Naturals’ pre-seasoned seitan serves as a versatile ingredient for making these. Additionally, savory buns a la empanadas, pierogies, hand pies, etc. 
Johnson, Will ‘center of the plate’ vegan menu items drive customer adoption at casual dining and fine dining legacy chain restaurants?

Hehl, Skepticism for the plant-based category is being met with burger fatigue. Consumers are interested in new analogs, and meat-free versions of popular, iconic dishes. Buona’s Plant-Based Chicago Italian Beef made with Upton’s Naturals’ thinly sliced and seasoned seitan is a great example of this. It quickly became a permanent menu item at all of the restaurant group’s locations and a retail version is now available as well.
Johnson, When will independent restaurants feel that they can add vegan menu items that cost less than here ilk niche ‘authentic’ items? I’m clarifying what’s meant by this last part.

Hehl, This involves a variety of variables, from cost of goods and labor to distributor percentages.
Johnson, Many consumers go out to dinner just for dessert. Where will we see the greatest adoption of vegan desserts and what is it most likely to be?

Hehl, Fast casual and dairy-free soft serve and frozen custard are growing in popularity. With all of the dairy-free innovation happening currently in milk, yogurt, and ice cream, we speculate an uptick in dairy-free soft serve in higher end burger & fries restaurants.

In case you did not know, Upton’s Naturals creates clean-ingredient, quick-cooking seitan and jackfruit meat substitutes for foodservice customers nationwide. As an independently owned company, their team supports as a partner for a successful launch, not just with supplying product. In an industry where limited time vegan offers come and go, Upton’s has a 17-year history of launching permanent menu items, including Buona’s plant-based Italian Beef.  

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

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