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Plant Based Proliferation

Trends Driving Plant-Based Food Innovation

February 18, 2022

As consumers look to expand their palates with plant-based proteins, innovation and variety are the name of the game in 2022. The group of diners eager for plant-based options is increasing beyond vegans and vegetarians, and now includes those wanting to make positive changes to their eating habits and the environment. In fact, 58% of US consumers are eating more plant protein because they feel it’s healthier than eating meat;1 and, research conducted by Revenue Management Solutions during the throes of the pandemic showed environmental concerns are an increasing reason for the rise in consumers choosing plant-based meat alternatives.2
Did you know veggie burgers are more prevalent on menus than bacon cheeseburgers?3 As they’ve become ubiquitous, it’s time to bring on the new. Now operators are taking plant-centric entrees to the next level, including natural meat replacements that deliver quality nutrition and satisfying flavor. Subbing in eggplant “bacon” on a BLT, sizzling sweet potato “steak” fries within a fajita, or crispy fried king trumpet mushrooms in exchange for a chicken patty are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creative plant-based dishes on menus. While these options are based in wholesome ingredients and filled with beneficial nutrients, consumers may be looking for more protein. 
Along with this hope for plant-powered protein, health goals, environmental concerns and supply chain issues have teed up 2022 to be a year of expansive meat, dairy, and egg substitute growth. Ingredients such as textured pea proteins, mung beans and seaweed are being utilized alongside soy to improve the taste and texture of meat analogues. These ingredients also check the box for the 62% of US plant protein consumers that would like to see plant proteins with whole food ingredients.4 Whitefish made from pulses is being served in select markets at Long John Silvers, while fast casual West Coast chain, Souvla, showcases vegan lamb made from pea-protein in their souvlaki sandwiches.5 Dairy and eggs are also important components of the plant-protein plate. Bean-topped nachos are smothered with vegan cashew cheese, plant-based egg patties are found on breakfast sandwiches and just about any coffee shop will have a plant-based milk to complete a cup of joe.



To meet consumer expectations and combat harmful practices to the environment, manufactured products will continue to broaden well beyond the burger patty to include varieties of seafood, pork, lamb and more.

To address consumer demand for clean label claims in plant-based offerings, operators will find ways to innovate with more wholesome ingredients.


Communicating the environmental and ethical implications of ingredients within menu mentions will be just as important as nutrition and taste.


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Plant-based meat and seafood substitutes have become staples across global menus, from independent restaurants to large chains. Operators are experimenting with more advanced alternatives to steak, cured meats and sushi-grade tuna.

College and University is no stranger to meat alternatives as these operations have catered to diverse diners—Millennials and Gen Z—for decades. Healthcare has also made inroads into plant-based eating in recent years. As a way to mitigate health issues through diet, the American Medical Association is encouraging plant-based options be available at hospitals and practitioners are making efforts to educate patients and promote plant-based eating. The recreation sector is catching up, too. Walt Disney World and Disneyland have been implementing a plant-based initiative since 2019 to ensure there is a vegan option on every menu within the parks.

Processors are capitalizing on the many opportunities in producing plant-based products. Key areas being highlighted through innovation and package labels include sustainable sourcing, nutrient-density, value, convenience, and improved taste and texture of meat analogs. Broader competition of plant-based goods will hopefully lower prices and eliminate the cost barrier for some consumers to these premium-priced items.

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Chef Mark Serice shares his excitement for innovation happening in the plant-based space, on both a local and a global level. Watch our latest video for his unique braised gluten and artichoke “osso bucco” recipe. 


With the global population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, alternative protein represents a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way of feeding the world. Plant-derived ingredients, meat analogues, fermented foods and insect protein are just some of the possibilities. Discover how Griffith Foods* is exploring these emerging ingredients, innovative processes and changing consumer preferences in their latest white paper, “Now, Next, Future.”



“Plant-based eating has been steadily growing in popularity for years now and I believe this will continue well into the future.  Alternate plant proteins sources will be key to the future health of our planet and all of us who call it home.  With that, I believe three things.  As an industry if we can:

  1. Bring more people into the plant-based fold
  2. Enable what I refer to as “plant-based-skeptics” to incorporate delicious plant-based foods as part of a healthier lifestyle, and
  3. Remove strains from the food systems by shifting our consumption to include more plant-based foods we can make a positive impact and affect change.  

The growth and animal protein analogues are on the rise and the industry in getting better in the development of tastes and texture.  Having said that, I feel equally passionate about the development of plant-based solutions that are based on whole foods that are delicious and healthy but are not developed to mimic meat.”

Chef Michael Hornback, Corporate Executive Chef, Custom Culinary® USA

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culinary inspiration

Get inspired by these on-trend concepts to create innovative offerings using Custom Culinary® products. 

Korean BBQ Impossible Burger
Korean BBQ Impossible Burger

A grilled Impossible burger glazed with a Korean-style barbecue on a toasted brioche bun topped with crunchy fried shiitake mushrooms and cabbage slaw. 

Featuring: Custom Culinary® Korean-Style Barbecue Sauce 

Baja Crab-less Cakes

Panko-crusted seared hearts of palm cakes topped with a sweet and spicy pineapple remoulade, served with a citrus pico de gallo and fresh avocado.

Featuring: Custom Culinary® Al Pastor Sauce


Baja Crab-less Cakes

 chef Mike Speranza


Plant-based foods are seeing increased demand from those who do not want to commit to a full vegan or even vegetarian lifestyle, but would rather pick and choose to suit their lifestyle, social life, or health conditions. Join Chef Michael Speranza, Custom Culinary® USA, as he takes a deeper look into this mega trend.

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© 2022 Custom Culinary, Inc. All rights reserved.

*Custom Culinary® is part of the Griffith Foods family of companies.

1,4,5 Mintel, 2022 FlavorIQ® Global Trends and Insights Report, January 2022 
2 Restaurant Business Online, The Future of Plant-Based Meats and Proteins, February 2021 
3 Datassential, The World of Burgers Report, September 2021