The rise of plant-based eating

Plant-based food is leading the charge and will continue to dominate the restaurant industry in Australia. What are the reasons behind this trend? And what are the benefits of a plant-based diet?

By Josephine Adriana

Over the past years, we have seen various food and beverage trends such as the rapidly rising gluten-free, dairy-free and even avocado craze meals in Australian restaurants. Exploring food fads is never ending as it reflects the increasingly thoughtful and mindful consumer.

Mainly fuelled by the younger generation, vegetarianism and veganism have arisen due to their growing health, ethical and environmental awareness, also known as ‘mindful consumerism’. Technology also plays a big part in this by creating sustainable meat alternatives from plants.

In fact, according to a 2016 survey by consumer research firm Roy Morgan, the number of Australians who claim to follow a vegetarian diet increased from 1.7 million people in 2012 to 2.1 million in 2016. As a result, restaurants offering plant-based or vegetarian meals are no longer the exception but are becoming the norm.

The latest trend

Market intelligence researchers from Euromonitor published a report on the latest Australian food trends in 2018: plant-based food. Not to be confused with the term ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’, plant-based food is not a diet or lifestyle choice; instead, it focuses on creating dishes with unprocessed or minimally processed ingredients. It is a dish that vegetarian, vegan and the rest of us without any diet preference could devour.

Undoubtedly, this influences all foodservice categories, including full-service restaurants in Australia. In 2017, restaurants began to offer their own fresh produce or farm-to-table experience in their menus, such as award-winning Brae restaurant in Victoria.

Both casual and fine dining restaurants have embraced this trend by either fully transforming their menu to a plant-based one or providing an alternative to meat dishes. For instance, the casual burger joint Soul Burger offers veggie burgers that will fool any meat-lovers. Similarly, Yellow is an award-winning vegetarian bistro in Sydney that focuses on showcasing vegetarian dishes are as tasty as other menu items.

What are the benefit of plant-based food?

Mostly made up of either vegetable, fruit, whole grain and nuts, a plant-based meal is lower in calories while maintaining high-protein content. Incorporating it into your diet could benefit your health in long run. Some of the benefits of plant-based eating are reducing your odds of heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure when compared to a meat-based diet. Not only is a plant-based dish a guilt-free alternative, it creates flavours that not only resemble but might even surpass the original. All thanks to the talented chefs out there.

Apart from the health benefits, eating plant-based foods supports the global movement of animal welfare as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Different from other food trends, demand for plant-based eating is here for the long-term and is expected to continue dominating full-service restaurants in Australia and worldwide. For restaurant owners, having a plant-based selection on the menu should appeal to a wide audience. While recreating a meaty dish from vegetables might be challenging, it is worth the effort!