Healthcare, C&U segments focus on plant-based snacks

plant based snacks
Photograph: Shutterstock

From Kellogg’s.

Plant-based dining is a global trend of increasing importance to consumers of all demographic groups, but two of the foodservice channels where it has emerged as particularly relevant are the college and university and healthcare segments.

The interest in plant-based dining is driven by evolving attitudes about healthy eating, along with increased consumer concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of meat production.

The trend also overlaps with increasing consumer interest in snacking, creating opportunities for foodservice operators in these segments to capitalize with plant-based products that provide healthy, convenient snacking solutions for customers on the go.

Broad definition of snacking

Millennial and Generation Z foodservice customers at colleges and universities and healthcare foodservice venues have embraced snacking and have broadened their definition of what constitutes a snack. A third of consumers—33 percent—ages 18-34 say that that their definition of what constitutes a snack now includes more types of foods, according to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking Occasion report.

These consumers are snacking throughout the day, and many are also seeking late-night snacks. In fact, 66 percent of millennials enjoy when operators offer late-night snack options, according to Mintel’s 2017 State of Snacking report. These “grazing” consumers are often replacing one or two traditional meals with multiple snacks, which underscores the need for operators to provide nutritious snacking options for their customers.

This increased interest in snacking throughout the day and night jibes with consumers’ focus on healthy and plant-based eating. Nearly a third of consumers—30 percent —say that snacking between meals is part of a healthy diet, the Technomic research found.

Plant-based snacking on the rise

The trend toward healthy snacking is only increasing: 25 percent of consumers who anticipate changes in their snacking behavior say they will eat healthier snacks, according to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking report.

The report found that 52 percent of consumers were seeking snacks that were high in protein, 48 percent want snacks that are energizing, 44 percent said they want snacks that are high in Vitamin C and 43 percent want snacks that are high in fiber—all of which are attributes that can be provided by plant-based snacks.

These are key findings for operators in the healthcare foodservice segment, where offering nutritious foodservice options supports the overall health halo these venues seek to create.

Across the foodservice spectrum, plant-based foods are increasingly playing a key role in consumers’ pursuit of healthier dining regimens. Technomic’s 2018 Global Megatrends report found that 34 percent of consumers globally say they tend to purchase vegetarian fare in restaurants—and an even larger group had adopted a flexitarian diet by reducing meat consumption for health or environmental reasons (or both).

Versatile ingredients are key

To satisfy consumer preferences, operators need ingredients that are healthy, versatile and easily modified to fit any daypart or eating occasion.

For example, the MorningStar Farms® Signature Protein Blend™ provides ample opportunities for menu innovation, from dishes such as Tomato Basil Mini Frittatas in the morning to Crunchy Quinoa Crusted Arancini for a late-night snack.

The MorningStar Farms® Signature Protein Blend™ can also be formed into patties or balls or used in stuffing. In addition, MorningStar Farms® Crumbles can be added to nachos and flatbreads to create the vegetarian dishes that ensure consumers don’t miss the meat.

For more inspiration, check out these featured recipes.

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