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Fruit takes plant-based menuing to a colorful, flavorful new level

Photograph: Shutterstock

With restaurant restrictions tightening in many states across the country, streamlined and optimized menus are more important than ever. So how can operators ensure that their offerings are flavorful, nutritious and exciting enough to attract consumer interest? Reevaluating the plant-based menu trend with a focus on fruit is a great way to innovate during this unprecedented time.

Consumer awareness, interest and spending in the plant-based category has skyrocketed over the past year. According to SPINS data from March 2019 to March 2020, sales of plant-based foods were up 90%, while the rate of plant-based food sales in the four weeks that followed outpaced the overall food category by 35%. As only 5% of Americans consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to Gallup data from September 2019, the plant-based dining boom is attributed to consumers who don’t necessarily follow strict vegetarian or vegan diets.  

For operators, the shift represents an opportunity to introduce even more consumers to the benefits of plant-forward menu items. And when those dishes are made with ingredients like frozen fruit, operators can showcase big flavors, eye-catching colors and more wholesome options in a cost-effective way.

Fruit-forward recipes inspired by global street food are a great place to start, as they appeal to a wide range of consumers and can be easily prepared for carryout and delivery orders. Consider the Cuban sandwich: for a plant-based take on the traditionally meaty Cubano, layer pineapple and mango mojo-marinated grilled portobello mushrooms on a French baguette. Top with spicy pickled pineapple and onion, and toast to perfection on a panini grill. A ramekin of additional pineapple-mango mojo dipping sauce brings a dynamic finishing touch of flavor to this unforgettable sandwich. 

Plant-based bowls are another category where fruit can shine as a starring ingredient. Create a blueberry and pearl barley salad bowl filled with light and balanced flavors, including green beans, zucchini, watercress, walnuts and pineapple vinaigrette. Or, fill a spicy ponzu poke bowl with fluffy white rice, diced mango and avocado, cucumber, jalapeño, green onion, sesame seeds and pineapple-ponzu-marinated tuna, salmon or tofu.

Creating plant-based versions of menu staples can bring a more wholesome touch to such favorites as tacos, flatbreads and breakfast scrambles—all of which are showing strong menu growth according to Datassential. Just remember, the plant-forward trend isn’t simply about eating less meat—it’s about celebrating the flavor, nutritional value and versatility of fruit, vegetables, legumes and other plant-based foods. 

For a free plant-based menu guide with full recipes, click here!

This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods