The common practice of scanning a menu for a list of farms and producers wasn’t always the norm. Once upon a time, diners simply ate what was put in front of them. Decades of unveiling how and what we eat has resulted in a more aware food public, and guests have evolved to hold chefs and purveyors accountable for what they serve. The Good Food Institute says we can produce food in a new and better way – and most diners agree.
The list of more than 70 staff members staff and partners working with The Good Food Institute is a dizzying scroll of highly qualified scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and five other countries. They all share the premise that clean meat and plant-based alternatives to animal products can be delicious and safer for us to eat, not to mention better for the planet than conventional animal agriculture.
Alison Rabschnuk is the director of corporate engagement, working with forward-thinking food processing and foodservice companies, supermarkets, and restaurants. Her team’s efforts are helping increase the standards and amount of available plant-based products.
“What’s so exciting right now is that consumers really are looking for healthier options that are better for the earth, and they don’t have to give up flavor with these new innovative products,” said Rabschnuk, who champions products like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. “It tastes like meat and looks like it, but it is made in a better way.”
A recent summit at the Culinary Institute of America welcomed food industry professionals to learn more about plant-forward cooking and included chefs from around the world.
“There is so much chefs can do, and we help them see that the shift is happening,” said Rabschnuk. “We have more brands coming to us to learn how they can meet diner demand for more humane, sustainable plant-based products.”
The movement isn’t a passing trend. Plant-based dishes saw a 19 percent increase in orders in 2017, according to a GrubHub study. The term “vegan” on American menus has jumped a staggering 490 percent since 2008, according to Datassential MenuTrends. At fine dining and fast casual restaurants across the country and abroad, savvy chefs include multiple vegetable dishes on their menus. At the recent National Restaurant Association show, dozens of plant-based companies showcased their products in highly trafficked booths with long lines for tastings and information.
The push for smarter proteins isn’t without obstacles. Well-known plant proteins are more expensive and less accessible for all diners. More demand, Rabschnuk says, will help further mainstream it and bring costs down.
“Until that happens a lot of these restaurants carrying these meat alternatives are passing the cost along to the consumer, but in studies we know diners who want these dishes are willing to pay the extra price,” said Rabschnuk, who encourages chefs to be creative in both marketing to guests and preparation. “I’ve been to restaurants and asked for a plant-based dish and received a plate of lettuce – diners want a variety of textures and filling dishes.” [Read more…]