A sustainability theme that promises to emerge at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago this week is the expanding world of plant-based meat substitutes.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have raised the bar for meat alternatives, and their product lines continue to grow. Beyond Pepperoni is a FABI Award winner at this year’s show, for example, as is Impossible Meatballs.
Other plant-based FABI winners include “Chicken TiNDLE” from Next Gen Foods, Egg Folded from Eat Just Inc. and a salmon burger (without salmon) from Good Catch.
It’s all part of a wave of next-gen plant proteins emerging, hoping to steal market share. And with that comes new technologies targeting the plant world, like a burger-building chef robot designed specifically for those products.
As consumers seek to reduce their meat consumption for both health and environmental reasons, the parade of plant-based restaurant concepts shows no signs of slowing down.
UK-based Neat Burger arrived in New York with plans to grow in the US, using proprietary products for pea-protein-based burgers, chicken and seafood dishes. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is an investor.
Philadelphia-based HipCityVeg this week opened its 11and located in Washington, DC’s Navy Yard, and will launch its first plant-based hot cart next week, sponsored by Beyond Meat.
Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan opened its fifth location this week in Athens, Georgia, and recently raised $25 million in Series A funding from Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments and Richlieu Dennis’ New Voices Fund. .
Even meat-based Portillo’s, known for its beefy hot dogs, introduced its first plant-based version this week using Field Roast.
And longtime pioneers of meatless menus are expanding their brands.
The 30-unit, Los Angeles-based Veggie Grill launched the new Stand-Up Burger concept last year. In June, Stand-Up Burger is set to open its fourth unit (and the first in Los Angeles). Five more are set to open before the end of 2022 – including the first location in New York – and the company plans to launch a franchise.
Stand-Up Burgers uses an Impossible Foods patty, while Veggie Grill tends to use more Beyond Meat, which President TK Pillan says has a “cleaner allergen-free ingredient platter” that matches the health halo of the parent brand.
Veggie Grill has also expanded plant-based alternatives to many other meat categories, such as deli meats, various chicken products, and cheeses with different functions.
Pillan argues that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods remain the leaders when it comes to meat burgers. But he welcomes the innovation that continues in the space.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “There is category innovation and people trying to create a healthier veggie burger option. It just shows the growth of the overall category as there are now multiple segments.
Here’s a sample of some of the herbal offerings to look for at the salon: