By Will Matier – Co-founder and New Business Development Director for Vegetarian Express
With the seemingly unstoppable rise in demand for vegan and vegetarian food, plant-based food is something no business can really afford to ignore.
At Vegetarian Express we’re seeing massive growth in demand for both vegetarian and vegan ingredients right across our foodservice customer base. This is fuelled in part by consumer desire for a healthier lifestyle, partly by special dietary requirements and food allergies, but increasingly by environmental concerns. For these consumers plant-based dishes are non-negotiable when dining out.
The key to encouraging non vegan or vegetarian customers try plant-based dishes has always been how to make them look and taste better than the meat-based alternatives. Well things have changed. It’s no coincidence that as demand has increased so chefs, caterers and suppliers have looked to invest more time and effort into creating suitable recipes and indeed finished dishes. As a result we are seeing strong pull from our foodservice customers keen to meet this growing demand.
In turn, we work tirelessly around menu innovation with the specific aim of helping chefs and caterers to bring vibrant, exciting dishes to the table. Indeed, this was the inspiration behind Seedbank, our ground-breaking online resource for plant-based recipes.
Exclusive to Vegetarian Express customers Seedbank contains a bank of vegetarian, vegan and dishes developed especially for foodservice. It demonstrates the simplest way to put plant-based meals on the menu with recipes that will have great appeal to both meat and non-meat eaters alike. The extensive recipe collection can be filtered by meal occasion, world flavour inspiration, or main ingredient for example, and each dish features a full ingredient list and detailed method of preparation. Recipes can be read online or downloaded, and have been fully analysed nutritionally, with allergen and diet sensitivities listed alongside and environmentally impact assessed. Everything from grab and go quick meals to fine dining dishes are included. It’s about inspiring chefs and caterers to create their own unique recipes rather than buying in pre-made options – we are essentially handing them back their creative flair when it comes to creating non-meat dishes.
Seedbank also takes advantage of some of the most exciting emerging plant-based products, grains and ingredients such as: Khorasan, a rich source of essential nutrients, including protein, dietary fibre several B vitamins and dietary minerals, especially manganese; and a range of innovative plant-based proteins including Tempeh, Seitan and Tofu.
But Seedbank is much more than this. As well as being a really simple way for caterers to get to understand how they can utilise plant-based ingredients it ties this in with the other key elements of menu planning such as cost, nutritional content and even the environmental impact.
Thanks to extensive media coverage the rise in demand for plant-based dishes is self-evident for any chef or caterer to see. However, what’s much harder for them is working out how they are going to maximise the opportunity. At Vegetarian Express we work with our customers on both menu creation and cycle generation, as well as supporting their academies and apprenticeship schemes. In addition, we routinely run knowledge transfer days, vegan food tours, and inspiration days with chefs such as Paul Gayler. It’s not all about interacting with the caterer though. To help drive end user awareness we regularly support customers’ promotional days and pop ups.
Since the start of this year we’ve added more than 100 new items to our range of +1000 plant-based products, but we continue to look for new and innovative products to launch. Amongst our newest initiatives is a collaboration Vivera, launching their cutting-edge plant-based meat into Foodservice, and Freaks of Nature vegan and free-from range of desserts. We also have an exclusive deal with Sambazon whose Acai products contain sustainable superfruits rich in antioxidants and are great as a super tasty and healthy breakfast or lunch option.
Thanks to the innovation that is going on in the category plant-based dishes aren’t really a specials board product any more, they are becoming mainstream. From some amazing vegan ice cream to poke bowls there is SO much more to the category than smashed avocado, halloumi, falafel and quinoa! Think vegan bacon (yes you read that right!), jackfruit chicken wings and burgers, and even banana blossom vegan fish & chips.
When it comes to marketing them on the menu, we strongly believe that vegan and vegetarian dishes should not be an afterthought as it is now possible to create fantastic dishes that stand up in their own right. Our aim is to make plant-based dishes the consumer’s first choice and so our advice to caterers would be to put them front and centre, alongside the meat and fish dishes, rather than having a separate vegetarian section.
For more information visit our website at www.vegetarianexpress.co.uk or call 01923 249714.
Vegetarian Express Ltd, Unit 7a, Odhams Trading Estate, St Albans Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD24 7RY UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 01923 249714.