Progressive Grocer

Grocerant February 2017

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7 SOLUTIONS FEBRUARY 2017 Getting casual "Vegetables in 2017 will extend their domination of the dinner plate, shoving animal protein to the edges, or off the plate altogether," according to an annual trend report published by Baum + Whiteman, a New York City-based restaurant consultancy. Baum + Whiteman first tracked the trend in fine dining but sees a similar momentum now at fast casual chains. "Ever since Sweetgreen [a Washington, D.C.-based salad chain] proved that people would line up for vegetables at all hours, there's been a stampede to open vegetable-forward concepts," notes the firm's list of the 13 hottest food and beverage trends in restaurant and hotel dining for 2017. Veggie sizzle Looking beyond the restaurant scene, most industry trend watchers also have vegetables on their lists of the hottest foods for 2017. Jenny Zegler, a global food and drink analyst at Chica- go-based research firm Mintel, predicts that this year, the preference for natural, simple and flexible diets will drive further expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations that emphasize plants as key ingredients. More packaged products and recipes for home cooking will leverage fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, botanicals and other plants as a way to align with consumers' nearly omnipresent health and wellness priorities, she says. Global food trend watcher Innova Market Insights, meanwhile, dubbed "Disruptive Greens" a major 2017 food trend that sums up consumers' desire to incorporate more plants and vegetables into their everyday diets. Netherlands-based Innova analysts predict consumer interest in plant-based milks and vegetable-based meat alterna- tives will only continue to grow in 2017, as nutritional awareness also expands and as flexitarian eating and veganism—once a marginal approach to eating—become mainstream. In fact, new product launch- es with plant-based claims grew at a 63 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2011 to 2015, according to Innova. One easy way to jump on the meatless bandwagon is by highlighting vegetarian fare for "Meatless Monday"—a 14-year- old initiative of The Monday Cam- paigns, which partners with the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Atlanta-based Moe's Southwest Grill chain, for example, has six meatless options on the menu at all times but promotes them with extra attention on Mondays; its tofu product is a favor- ite, according to the company. Other operators, such as Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, offer special discounts for vegetarian options. The Maryland-based Mexican fast casual restaurant reduces prices 20 percent on meatless items like organic refried beans every Monday throughout the chain. Restaurant consultancy Baum + Whiteman predicts vegetables will push animal protein off the plate at some restaurants. Meatless Mondays

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