Foodservice Operators Increase Orders of Plant-Based Proteins

West and South Census regions show most growth in demand for plant-based proteins.

Customers are increasingly opting for plant-based proteins and foodservice operators are climbing aboard the trend.

Case shipments of plant-based protein from broadline foodservice distributors to foodservice operators increased by 20% in the year ending November 2018 compared to year ago with all Census regions showing double-digit growth, reported The NPD Group.

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The West Census Region represents the most plant-based protein volume and case shipment growth followed closely by the South Census region, according to NPD’s SupplyTrack.

About a quarter of the U.S. population, many of whom aren’t vegan or vegetarian, say that they eat and drink plant-based beverages and foods as well as animal protein on a regular basis. Among the reasons why plant-based proteins have mainstreamed is that consumers, in addition to adding protein to their diets, perceive them as being a “better-for-you” option. There are also plant-based fans who have concerns around animal welfare and they want to know how products are brought to market. These consumers have the belief that plant-based protein provides “clean meat” and eliminates many of these barriers.

Burgers represent the largest plant-based foodservice category and have year-over-year double-digit growth in pounds shipped to foodservice operators, and it’s plant-based burgers that are showing up the most on many restaurant menus. Although plant-based burgers are popular across demographics, an analysis done with NPD’s receipt mining service, Checkout, shows that smaller, more affluent ($100,000 and up) households are the top buyers of plant-based burgers*.

“Plant-based proteins are no longer just a meat replacement, it’s now its own category,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of “Eating Patterns in America.” “It’s possible that protein overall is evolving into a category, whether animal meat, beans, nuts, soy, wild game or other proteins, in forms ranging from beverage to center-of-plate.”