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Blog at Chefify

To Meat Or Not To Meat?: The Plant-based Trend That's Changing The Food Industry

Jul 9 2019 - 11:21am
Why is meatless meat so relevant? Regardless of which school of thought you belong to, farming livestock for meat production is becoming irrefutably detrimental for the planet. Some meat lovers may be surprised to learn that animal farming produces less nutritional value than it consumes and our environment is suffering as a result.

Studies show that meat and dairy farming uses up 87% of available farmland while producing 60% of the industry's greenhouse gas emissions and only providing 37% of protein. 

What's driving the meatless industry?

There are 1.6 million vegans in the UK alone – a significant number, but is it a commercially viable one? 

Big players in the ingredient manufacture industry are taking bold strides towards creating plant-based meat alternatives, affirming that a seismic shift in consumer habits is indeed taking place – not merely a response to demands from vegan consumers.

According to the Guardian, the trend is a result of several factors: animal welfare, environmental concerns, and the changing attitudes of customers towards personal health and wellbeing. These influential components have evidently created an incentive for small scale entrepreneurs and big businesses alike to sit up and listen. 

But the veggie option is always so boring...

Although most establishments offer vegetarian options, these dishes have not always been praised for their appealing qualities. Consumers want a healthier alternative without compromising on taste; they want the flavour and texture of meat without the guilt and health risks. 

The good news is that with selected meatless meat options, vegetarian dishes can be almost indistinguishable from their counterparts according to tasters.

Is plant-based for everyone?

The challenge with plant-based meat products lies in onboarding diners. Although many consumers know that they should be looking at healthier alternatives, they are reluctant to give up the traditional burger. 

There are, however, exciting new entries in the meatless burger market that are helping to change perceptions. Recently, several innovative producers have introduced fresh plant-based burgers that don't compromise on taste and texture, while also being able to appease the ethical concerns of consumers. 

For many of us, veganism sounds like an extreme lifestyle change. Having the option to make occasional swaps for healthier alternatives that offer good nutritional value is a much more palatable way to start making those subtle adjustments that count. From a restaurant business perspective, diversifying your menu with plant-based products places your establishment in a fantastic position as more and more individuals start to make these dietary changes. 

According to studies, the demand for vegetarian options went up by 987% in 2017 due to an increased interest in health improvement. Social media has undoubtedly helped to promote the trend by creating a sense of camaraderie amongst individuals looking to make health-conscious lifestyle changes. 35% of Brits are making an effort to regularly take days off from eating meat – meat-free Mondays are certainly catching on. 

How are food chains responding to the demand?

Veganism is here to stay, and it's on the menu of most major restaurants and chains. Marks and Spencer, Pret a Manger, Wagamama, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express and Zizzi all offer vegan dishes. Even much loved stout brand, Guinness, has stopped using fish bladders in its brewing process. 

Besides joining forces with other socially responsible corporations to lower carbon emissions, improve animal welfare and help consumers to lead healthier lives, there are clear financial benefits to both customers and businesses. Globally, the market for vegetarian and vegan products was worth $51 billion in 2016; and in the UK, plant-based products earned £443 million in 2018, a figure that is set to grow to £658 million in 2021. There is also an annual saving of £645 to be made for consumers who cut meat out of their diets, making a plant-based diet even more enticing. 

Meatless meat is here, and it's growing in popularity as consumer demand evolves in line with increasing environmental concerns. To survive in this new era of dining, it certainly is worth investigating whether plant-based dishes have a place on your menu. Start by studying the needs of your immediate market and what most concerns them when making food choices. This way, you can tailor make your offering to ensure that you are creating and serving dishes that entice new visitors as well as allow existing ones to make the necessary dietary changes that suit their lifestyle choices. 

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