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Plant Based - Fad or Fab?

About 15 years ago I was standing next to the Angel Food car when a young guy in chef gear walked past, pointed at the branding on the car (which included “vegan” and “dairy-free”) and laughed, saying “You cater for all the people I hate!”.

Well, we all hope he’s working in a different industry now or he’s changed his view, because if not he’ll be finding things very stressful. The lines between different styles of eating are more blurred and variable than ever. What was once a clear split between meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans is now a spectrum. It’s not just a local phenomenon, it is a global trend: Wagamama UK’s menu is now 50% plant-based, KFC is trialling a vegan ‘fried chicken’ in their US stores and more and more options are available to chefs that ever before.

A recent report out of the UK suggested that 50% of Gen Z-ers would be ashamed if anyone saw them buying dairy products.

Less than 5% of New Zealanders are vegan or vegetarian but more than a third of us are actively reducing our intake of animal products. That’s a massive shift and an important sector of the market that should be catered for. A flexitarian will peruse your whole menu – and if they find something plant-based that sounds (and is) extremely satisfying then they’ll be happy that you supported their aim of eating more plants without sacrificing pleasurable eating.

Speaking of menus… some eateries who have put a lot of effort into developing a decent range of plant-based offerings have a separate vegan menu. That’s great for vegans if they know the vegan menu exists!

If they don’t know, and only see the regular menu, then the selection can look poor. Most guests probably won’t ask for an alternative menu – so include the plant-based meals amongst the meaty offerings to get the best cut-through.

It will take a bit of effort to develop new plant-based menu items, but the rewards can be big. As well as keeping customers coming back for more and bringing their friends, delicious plant-based meals can have significantly lower ingredients costs, so there’s an opportunity to increase profits. Depending on your customer base, you may even be able to charge a premium for healthy plant-based options.

Our top menu tips:

  • Showcase great flavour and texture by using terms like “delicious",“crispy”, “spicy”, or “mouth-watering” in your plant-based meal descriptions

  • Start with plant-based versions of dishes your customers already enjoy

  • Be positive: use “plant-powered” rather than “meatless”

  • Weave plant-based options into your main menu so they get full consideration

  • Coach staff in ways to encourage customers to try the plant-based menu items

  • But most of all embrace the movement. It is not always clear why a guest may want alternative plant-based options but a third of New Zealanders can’t be wrong!

Ngā mihi

Alice Shopland,

founder of Angel Food

(and long-time vegan)

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