The future of the food service industry: how plant-based products are revolutionising the out-of-home market
Out-of-home catering is on the threshold of a significant transformation. Driven by a noticeably growing interest in products that fulfil special health as well as sustainability requirements, plant-based alternative products are increasingly gaining importance. The classic economic reasons are not the only motivation behind the change of attitude. Issues such as the continuing growth of the world population, climate change and food waste are also driving innovation in the food sector. The importance of healthy and sustainable nutrition is increasing from one generation to the next. According to the latest nutrition report of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft – BMEL), well over 50% of those surveyed in all age groups state they are vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian. This is a development that we at Backshop are following closely in the interests of our customers. We therefore want to take a look at the advantages that the integration of plant-based products brings for the food service sector and bulk consumers, both in an economic and social context.
The advantages of plant-based food for critically minded consumers
Over recent years, the topic of sustainability in all its complexity has become anchored in the minds of society. This extends beyond pure political discourse. Questions regarding nutrition and the handling of food are key aspects of this for consumers. A wish to increase the sustainability of their own consumer behaviour is almost equally present in all age groups. In addition, critically aware consumers are particularly keen to have a healthy and balanced diet. Especially plant-based and vegan foods enjoy a reputation for being able to meet both of these requirements. Besides the health benefits, the production of plant-based food is generally more resource-efficient and environmentally friendly, thus also making it an important factor in the global sustainability strategy.
The benefits of plant-based products in the context of challenges for the food service industry
Is is now well documented by studies – such as the 2020 Blue Horizon study – that the production of plant-based foods is significantly more efficient in terms of the use of land, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption than that of animal products. Furthermore, plant-based meals require less cooking time and lower temperatures on average for their preparation, which means less energy is needed. Ready products from the vegan segment involve fewer steps and can therefore contribute to relieving the burden of the already scarce staff in the food service and mass catering sector. The handling of raw meat also harbours certain risks in terms of cross-contamination and food hygiene. Plant-based products are less risky in this respect, which in turn reduces the requirements for staff training and attention to food safety practices. This means that staff with less training could also be an alternative for positions that were previously reserved for skilled specialists.
New meat: a bridge between tradition and the future
Despite the ongoing trend, and the growing curiosity and interest in plant-based products, it is noticeable in particular in the distribution of eating habits, that consumers still do not want to completely give up all animal products. Even if their willingness to cut down on their meat consumption is very high. One important factor mentioned in the recent BMEL nutrition report is taste. However, the concern for animal welfare plays an overriding role. In addition, the requirement to be informed about the origin, quality and sustainability of the consumed food, also when eating out, is increasing. Ultimately this means a corresponding increase in demand for products that can meet these requirements. This is where the creations from the product range known as ‘new meat’ come into play. There are a number of young innovative companies that are revolutionising the market with their products. And the younger target group of 14- to 34-year-olds in particular, for whom the out-of-home market plays a much larger role than for older age groups, is keen on this type of meat alternative.
The food service industry is at a turning point, driven by a growing awareness of health and sustainability. Plant-based products offer not only ecological and health benefits, but also practical solutions for the requirements of the food service industry. Their simple preparation and the lower risks in terms of food safety can contribute to increasing efficiency and lowering costs. In addition, they address the growing demand for ethically and ecologically responsible products. The trend towards meat alternatives, in particular among the younger generation, shows that the market for innovative plant-based products has large growth potential. This transformation not only represents a chance for the food service industry, but also a step towards a more sustainability- and health-conscious society. It is a development in which we at Backshop also see an opportunity beyond the existing range.