Foodservice

Plant-Based Menu Items Making Comeback, Technomic Says

Convenience stores should take note of webinar data, which also reveals flavor experimentation abounds, breakfast tops in growth and more
Korean tofu sausage bowl with avocado on top
Photo courtesy of California Avocado Commission

Plant-based offerings making a comeback in 2023 is one of the key themes in a new webinar from CSP sister research arm Technomic.

The newly released Technomic Ignite State of the Menu Webinar 2024 includes menu data and insights from Top 500 chain restaurants—but convenience stores can benefit by examining the data and playing to the trends.

Another key theme in the report, which used Technomic Ignite Menu data from 2022’s fourth quarter to 2023’s fourth quarter, shows that flavor experimentation abounds.

At limited-service restaurants (LSRs), for example, here was the year-over-year growth in breakfast for:

  • Spiced: Up 48.3%
  • Pistachio: Up 16.7%
  • Umami: Up 15.0%

LSR lunch/dinner growth:

  • Truffle: Up 44.4%
  • Roasted garlic: Up 21.0%
  • Horseradish: Up 20.0%

Full-service restaurant (FSR) breakfast growth:

  • Berry: Up 21.4%
  • Spicy: Up 17.1%
  • Savory: Up 12.5%

FSR lunch/dinner growth:

  • Cookies and cream: Up 34.6%
  • Marshmallow: Up 27.3%
  • Red Velvet: Up 20.0%

Regarding the resurgence of plant-based offerings in regard to LSR breakfast:

For LRS lunch/dinner:

  • Plant-based pork: Up 131.2%
  • Imitation-meat sandwiches: Up 75.0%
  • Plant-based beef: Up 12.8%

FSR breakfast:

  • Veggie protein: Up 6.7%

In dayparts, breakfast at full-service restaurants experienced the biggest growth in 2023, according to Technomic:

  • FSR breakfast: Up 4.7%
  • LSR lunch/dinner: Up 4.1%
  • FSR lunch/dinner: Up 3.3%
  • LRR breakfast: Up 1.9%

The report also includes recommended actions for 2024. The first, which regards menu extensions, suggests working products into new mealparts/dayparts or finding new, innovative preparations for these items. Also suggested is leaning into unique flavor and mealpart combinations.

Another recommendation is to be more specific. “Menu items with highly transparent descriptors drive cravings with consumers,” the report said. “Detail exact portion sizes or preparation styles, define lesser-known items directly on menus, etc.”

Other suggestions:

  • Implement limited-time offers, which drive brand excitement
  • Experiment with new flavors and presentations. Seasonal and less-mainstream global flavors drive excitement with consumers

Finally, the c-store retailers should take note of what Technomic calls the “great occasion shift”:

  • Consumers will reduce spending on delivery in favor of more takeout and drive-thru
  • Breakfast will boom during the workweek, with customers treating themselves to foodservice in the morning rather than lunch
  • On weekends, brunch will be the new dinner

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