It’s no secret that the rearing of livestock contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of any other food. Reducing consumption of meat and dairy is one of the most significant ways in which individuals can minimise their own personal carbon footprint, and demand for plant-based options is increasing every year in most Western countries.
For foodservice operators, this presents a challenge — how can your business pivot to meet rising consumer demand, without negatively impacting your brand identity or bottom line? However, it also offers an opportunity: to reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint and reap the benefits of doing so.
Plant-based eating trends: Some key figures
- Australia: In 2021, a study by the University of Adelaide found that nearly one-fifth (19.8%) of Australians were consciously reducing their meat consumption. The same year, in a survey by CHOICE, 11% of Australian consumers said they would consider adopting a fully vegan diet in the next five years.
- EU: A report published by the EU-funded SMART PROTEIN project analysed retail data from 11 European countries, showing that Europe’s plant-based food industry grew an astonishing 49% overall in the two-year period from 2018 to 2020.
- UK: In the years between 2008 and 2019, the average amount of meat eaten each day per person in the UK fell from 103.7g to 86.3g — a total reduction of just under 17%.
- USA: A 2022 report from Acosta showed that 40% of US shoppers purchase plant-based meat and/or dairy products as part of a healthy lifestyle.
What to consider?
- Offer a wider selection. Increasing the number of meat-free options on a menu — also known as a ‘plant-forward’ selection — not only provides more choice for those on a vegetarian and vegan diet, but may also have a positive effect on consumer perceptions of plant-based meals. By suggesting that plant-based meals are a ‘normal’ choice, rather than a niche one, research suggests that this may make meat-eaters more comfortable with choosing a plant-based meal.
- Step into their shoes. Think about what matters to consumers. Studies showthat taste is the most important factor in choosing a plant-based meal, followed by ‘healthiness, environmental friendliness, filling/satiating capacity and animal welfare’. Bear these influences in mind when writing your menu descriptions. Ensure plant-based dishes are more than an afterthought; today’s consumer expects meat-free dishes to be crafted with creativity and care.
- Menu design matters. Menu design can contribute to the uptake of plant-based meals in foodservice; one study showedthat a considered ‘nudge’ strategy resulted in 85% of participants choosing the dish of the day — all that was required was a box to make this option stand out. Used to promote meat-free meals, this is a simple but valuable way in which foodservice can encourage sustainable choices.
- Tell the story. As with all your brand communications, storytelling is an important way to connect with your customers. Be sure to tell the story behind your plant-based options, highlighting provenance and emphasising the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption.
- Keep it familiar. While creativity is important, familiar flavours still resonate. Make sure at least one of your plant-based options is a meat-free twist on something that’s instantly recognisable — and non-threatening for less adventurous eaters. Think vegetarian versions of lasagne or burgers; ‘faux meat’ is a useful ingredient in this context.
- Use positive framing. Base menu descriptions on the positive attributes of the dish in question (made from plants, plant-powered, plant-based, veggie, high in plant protein) rather than what it doesn’t contain (meatless, meat-free, reduced meat). You may even wish to do away with labels such as ‘healthy’, ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ altogether, focusing instead on descriptions of flavour, texture and provenance — just as you would for dishes containing meat or fish.
How can we help?
At Nutritics, we're on a mission to help everyone better understand and reduce the impact of our food supply. We’ve brought our best-in-class food data expertise to carbon labelling, to develop a proprietary technology that automatically matches your foods, recipes and dishes to peer reviewed LCA data sources, with a specific focus on local food supply chains.
Foodprint is a fully automated, easy-to-use carbon footprint scoring, display and Scope 3 reporting system for food businesses. It combines the latest research with cutting-edge technology, all designed to help organisations on their journey to ‘net zero' carbon.
Read more about Foodprint and how it can directly benefit your business below, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.