If you spent even five minutes walking the floor of the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show during its first day Saturday, you would know this:
Plant-based foods are virtually inescapable.
Meatless burgers have been grabbing recent headlines—from Beyond Meat’s IPO to Impossible Burger’s rollout with Burger King—but the Show floor told a more complete story of the many and varied options for operators looking to hook vegetarian, vegan and, of course, omnivore consumers.
From nondairy ice cream bars to meatless tacos and fishless sushi, here are some of the new plant-based offerings we encountered at the Show. Not all are currently available, but most are expected to hit the market in the coming months.
1. Sushi, hold the fish
Ocean Hugger Foods, which makes a marinated tomato product that mimics the texture of sushi-grade tuna, is out with a new item called Unami. Marinated eggplant takes on the toothsome texture and lightly sweet flavor of eel, aka unagi, especially when served with sushi rice.
3. Plant-based ground ‘meat’
Beyond Meat is well-known for its plant-based burger patties and sausages. But the company is showing off its newest addition at the Show, a pea protein-based ground “meat” that can be used in place of ground beef. The product has slightly more protein, more than twice as much iron and significantly less fat than 80/20 ground beef.
4. Is banana blossom the next jackfruit?
Jackfruit is well-known as a credible stand-in for pulled pork, but the next plant-based star just might be the banana blossom. That’s the tear-shaped, purple-skinned flower that sprouts at the end of a banana cluster. When cooked, it has a flaky texture that mimics fish. It’s so new that Nature’s Charm isn’t sampling the vegan fish just yet, but the company sells canned banana blossom.
5. Creamy, dairy-free desserts
Daiya, known for its dairy-free cheeses, is showing off its new coconut milk ice cream novelties at the Show. The treats, in vanilla and chocolate, are dipped in fair-trade chocolate.
Honey Hill Farms has been selling its coconut milk soft serve base for several years, but sales of the dairy-free product have grown exponentially over the past year, representatives say. The creamy base can be flavored with fruit purees and is also becoming popular in vegan rolled ice cream applications, the company says.
7. ‘Upcycled’ ingredients
Oakland, Calif.-based Renewal Mill turns the leftover pulp from soy milk processing into a high-fiber, gluten-free flour. The company is serving vegan chocolate chip cookies made with its Okara Flour at the Show. “Ingredients with a story” is the company’s tag line—a fitting one as kitchens and consumers seek to combat food waste.