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Food Service Industry Updates

More Restaurants, Foodservice Operations Growing Plant-Based Offerings

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Plant-based proteins continue to take root at foodservice.

The NPD Group found that as pandemic-related restaurant restrictions lifted across the U.S., chefs and foodservice operators began refreshing their menu offerings and recipes — with plant-based proteins being one of the food categories they used to make those updates.

And not in a small way. NPD found that shipments of plant-based proteins from foodservice distributors to commercial restaurants increased 60% in April compared to the same month a year ago, when the category realized declines because of pandemic restrictions. However, shipments were up 16% this April when compared to April 2019, according to NPD’s SupplyTrack, which tracks every product shipped from leading distributors to more than 700,000 U.S. foodservice operators, capturing detail on over 80% of the broadline foodservice sales channel.     

Plant-based beef analogues, which represent the largest share of plant-based protein shipments, increased pounds shipped by 45% in April compared to the same month a year ago, and 82% compared to two years ago.

Chicken plant-based analogues, a more recent category than beef analogues, grew by 82% in April compared to April 2020 and 25% compared to April 2019. Another more recent entry is fish analogues, which grew by 181% in April compared to a year ago and 78% compared to two years ago. Classic plant-based proteins, like grains, nuts, vegetables, tofu and tempeh, also experienced substantial growth in April, NPD found. 

“There has been a lot of public discussion about plant-based beef and meat substitutes, and whether or not plant-based is a fad or a trend,” says Tim Fires, president of NPD’s SupplyTrack. “But the fact of the matter is, chefs and operators see the plant-based protein category as a flexible option for developing recipes and menu offerings that taste good and their guests enjoy. Plant-based is now a staple in their repertoire.”

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