Consumers expect innovation with flexible vegan and vegetarian proteins.

Plant-forward is a continuing trend we’re all hearing about. To be on trend doesn’t mean crafting an all-vegan menu, in fact, it only means providing more options for diners—meatless options, of course. Plant-based is a trend that’s going mainstream, according to The Culinary Institute of America, The Harvard School of Public Health and their Menus of Change summit. This trend will continue to transform menus and spur the next generation of innovation.

While millennials lead the trend, with their Instagram shots of plant-based burgers piled high, Boomers are keen on it, too, according to Datassential. Baby Boomers are just as likely if not more likely than millennials to eat a flexible, mostly plant-based diet, and to seek vegetarian options when dining out.

As a result of all this hype, the global meat substitutes market is expected to balloon in the next five years, so much so that plant proteins could equal a third of the entire meat market within a few decades, according to Food Business News.

“We’re seeing the proliferation of innovation on plant-based protein menued items in many different segments,” says Gavin Bowyer, senior director of marketing at Kellogg, parent company to MorningStar Farms. “This is an indication of the relevance for today’s consumers.”

For fine dining innovators, plant-forward can mean cauliflower steaks and delicately sauced small plates of root-to-stem carrots, beets, and the like. But what about the familiar, the old favorites, the pub food, and the American classics—what about the burger?

“Consumers are drawn to novelty, but it has to be anchored in a menu item they know and love,” Bowyer says. “Veggie patties are the most popular menu item, and as that segment continues to grow, operator and patrons’ interest in even more vegetarian formats is increasing rapidly.”

While the plant-trend continues to evolve, what consumers look for in plant-based protein hasn’t changed. Above all, they want crave-able, satisfying, nutritious meatless options.

“Think familiar with a twist,” Bowyer says. “Think of your most popular meat-based items and figure out how you can put a novel twist using plant-based protein.”

To meet that demand, Chefs need something flexible, a protein that can be shaped and transformed the same way ground beef makes its way into burgers, meatballs, soups, and stews. For this, chefs can use MorningStar Farms Signature Protein Blend to create the ever-popular sliders, or something a little less expected—vegetable shepherd’s pie—to wow guests with plant-forward options.

The MorningStar Farms Signature Protein Blend is a recipe-ready vegetarian plant protein option that allows for chef-driven menus. The hand-formable, speed-scratch format gives chefs the freedom to customize and serve their own signature dishes.

“This gives operators the opportunity to become innovative with their plant-based dishes,” Bowyer says. “This flexibility that allows for creativity for any format-– anchoring in burgers and adding more plant-forward options for diners looking for even more delicious choices. Restaurants can find inspiration almost anywhere—social media, food publications and influencers, like celebrity chefs, is a great place to look for inspiration.” 

Though burgers may be the dish many chefs go to when they are trying to think of new plant-based entrees to add to their menus, that’s the right starting point but the fact is that diners are looking for even more vegan or vegetarian options. They are looking for restaurants that serve new, innovative choices they can’t get anywhere else. By thinking outside the burger, restaurants can embrace a whole world of plant-based foods and draw in new diners excited by the prospects.

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