As pandemic-related restaurant restrictions lift across the U.S., chefs and foodservice operators are refreshing their menu offerings and recipes. Plant-based proteins are one of the food categories they’re using to help update, according to The NPD Group. Shipments of plant-based proteins from foodservice distributors to commercial restaurants increased by 60% in April 2021 compared to the same month a year ago, when the category realized declines because of pandemic restrictions. Shipments are up 16% compared to April 2019, according to NPD’s SupplyTrack, which tracks every product shipped from leading distributors to more than 700,000 U.S. foodservice operators, capturing detail on over 80% of the broadline foodservice sales channel.
Plant-based beef analogues, which represent the largest share of plant-based protein shipments, increased pounds shipped by 45% in April 2021 compared to same month year ago and 82% compared to two years ago. Chicken plant-based analogues, a more recent category than beef analogues, grew by 82% in April 2021 compared to April 2020 and 25% compared to April 2019. Another more recent entry is fish analogues, which grew by 181% in April compared to a year ago, and 78% compared to two years ago, although still a small category. Classic plant-based proteins, like grains, nuts, vegetables, tofu, and tempeh, also experienced substantial growth in April, found NPD.
“There has been a lot of public discussion about plant-based beef and meat substitutes, and whether or not plant-based is a fad or a trend,” said Tim Fires, president of NPD’s SupplyTrack. “But the fact of the matter is, chefs and operators see the plant-based protein category as a flexible option for developing recipes and menu offerings that taste good, and their guests enjoy. Plant-based is now a staple in their repertoire.