The plant-based food trend is clearly here to stay, whether you like it or not! We go through the benefits of introducing plant-based options on your menu, and how to market them to your audience successfully.
Why the Plant-Based Trend is Here to Stay
There are three key factors in what's driving the shift in veganism:
- Consumers are more conscious of their environmental impact
- Consumers are more conscious of the treatment of animals when producing food
- Consumers see veganism as a healthy lifestyle
Just exactly how many consumers? Research conducted by Roy Morgan in 2019 found 2.5 million people in Australia have diets that are either all, or almost all, vegetarian. That's 12.1% of the population, and the figure rose from 2.2 million in 2014.
And this is not just an Australian trend - according to a Nielsen survey, 39% of consumers in the U.S. and 43% in Canada stated that they aim to include more plant-based foods into their diet. The Economist reports one quarter of 25 to 34 year olds in the U.S. classified themselves as vegetarian or vegan in 2019.
Why You Should Jump on the Bandwagon
- Grow Your Customer Base
You'll be considered a prime dining spot by vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, enviro-conscious diners AND health-conscious diners. It's a win-win, really!
- Increase Sales
By reaching all these new audiences, you'll experience an increase in sales. Not to mention, you will be opening your venue to more group bookings - when there's a vegan or vegetarian in the group, people will ignore restaurants that have limited offerings and go to you instead.
- Retain Relevancy
Everyone loves a venue that has new and exciting dishes to try, rather than the same old menu that they've seen for years. By introducing some new plant-based dishes, you are retaining relevancy in your existing audience. Diners will think of you as constantly innovating and improving your offering.
Finally convinced that you should whack a few plant-based options on your menu? Great! Let's move on to how to successfully do this.
How to Properly Market Plant-Based Food
When it comes to picking names of a dish, it's just common sense to highlight the very best features. You wouldn't describe a fried chicken burger as a greasy pool of oil. You would want to use adjectives like juicy and crispy, and emphasise the flavour such as cajun-spiced or honey-glazed.
The same logic applies to plant-based dishes. The World Resource's Institute's Better Buying Lab has researched for two years to find language that boosts and suppresses sales of plant-rich foods.
Do not use:
- Healthy Restrictive (Low Fat, Sugar Free, etc.)
These words all mean something negative to the average meat-lover. They are associated with restriction, a lack of flavour and ultimately an unsatisfying meal. So how can you combat these negative connotations?
- Country of Origin
Which one sounds more appealing, Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup or Cuban Black Bean Soup?
I don't know about you but I'd like a bowl of flavourful soup that's using a cool Cuban recipe, none of that low fat nonsense thanks. In just one month, 18 Los Angeles locations of the Panera Bread chain saw a 13% uplift in sales of the black bean soup from this simple name switch. Coincidence? I think not.
- Emphasis on Flavour
As mentioned earlier, this is an easy way to highlight the best parts of the dish. A study from Stanford University confirmed that highlighting flavour increases sales of plant-rich dishes. Flavour-focused labels like Rich Buttery Roasted Sweet Corn and Zesty Ginger Turmeric Sweet Potatoes were chosen by diners 41% more often over the same dishes that had a healthy restrictive label.
Emphasis on Look & Feel
The Better Buying Lab found that a dish's flavour, appearance and mouth-feel can dramatically affect a customer's preferences. Plant-rich foods come in a spectrum of colours, which is the single biggest cue people use to set their expectations on what the dish will taste like. Also be sure to utilise evocative words that inspire deliciousness - crunchy, creamy, indulgent, juicy, sticky... The list goes on!
Little Turtle Restaurant serves up plant-based Thai food in an incredibly visually appealing way, with emphasis on colour and texture.
Soul Burger is Sydney's first entirely plant-based burger joint with several locations town. Their menu uses names such as "Southern Fried Chicken", "BBQ Bacon" and "The Aussie", even though they are 100% meat-free.
The term 'plant-based' is basically just rebranding vegan eating for the mainstream. Lempert, a veteran food industry analyst, states " 'Plant-based' is as close as you can get to the farm. It's a really smart use of terminology". It's a gentle nudge to promote eating more vegetables, rather than the definitive vegan or vegetarian labels that can make meat-eaters feel like this is not a dish made for them.