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The Future of Food in Foodservice

Times Are Changing

In today’s world, technology is rapidly changing how we live. Consider how we used to perform research for articles like this one, make phone calls and look for work. We have come a long way from encyclopedias, landlines and pounding the pavement with a stack of freshly printed resumes. You would be hard-pressed to find a part of our lives that technology hasn’t changed over the years, and our food is no exception. From how we shop for groceries to how the food is produced has changed significantly. These changes have also influenced what we eat (some for good and others not so good) and will continue to do so. The good news is that in addition to introducing our bodies to convenient and over-processed foods with very little nutritional value, food technology also holds the power to improve our dietary intake, health, and the planet significantly.

To meet the demand for animal products within our growing populations, 70 billion farmed land animals are raised globally every year. Raising these animals for food significantly impacts our environment by polluting our water, air, and soil; causing widespread deforestation; and contributing to carbon emissions that fuel the climate crisis. Additionally, animal agriculture creates health issues related to antibiotic resistance and the spread of disease. Further problems include; unhygienic and unsafe working conditions for production workers and the ethical considerations of raising and slaughtering millions of animals for food. How do we maintain this capacity for food production while addressing these environmental, health, and societal issues? Recent innovations in food production aim to tackle these pressing issues.

Promising Food Technology

The world’s demands for alternative protein sources that are affordable and delicious while being healthy and environmentally friendly are on the rise. The global market for these products is projected to increase by 18% between 2022 and 2032, reaching over 4.96 billion dollars in 2032, according to Future Market Insights. This is causing food manufacturers to diversify and offer new products and has allowed for an exciting increase in start-ups worldwide focused on bringing new food innovations to the market.

Some alternative protein products like plant-based burgers and non-dairy milk are widely available and have become commonplace to the general public. However, some up-and-coming food innovations are less familiar to the masses, such as cultivated meat, animal-free eggs, and dairy.

Cultivated meat, sometimes referred to as  “clean,” “cultured,” or “cell-based meat,” uses cellular agriculture, which is “the production of genuine animal products without requiring animal breeding, rearing, and slaughter,” to create real meat without raising billions of animals for food. A single cow raised over two years and killed using modern food production practices yields roughly 800 quarter-pound burger patties. Meanwhile, we can collect a small sample of cells from a living cow to produce 80,000 quarter-pound burgers in as little as 5-7 weeks. That is 100 times more meat in a fraction of the time. While this technology is still being fine-tuned to make it scalable and affordable for the masses, it holds great promise to reduce the environmental and social impacts of meat production while also eliminating the public health risks associated with CAFOS (concentrated animal feeding operations). UPSIDE Foods, the California-based cultivated meat company, recently became the first in the world to receive a “No Questions” letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signaling that its cultivated chicken is safe to eat. This is one of many recent global breakthroughs that are assisting in bringing these new food technologies to market.

It is also possible to make foods known as “animal-free dairy” and “animal-free eggs” using bioreactors and essential nutrients just like cultivated meat. However, creating these products includes some significant differences from cultivated meat production. Unlike cultivated meat, creating animal-free dairy and eggs uses no animal cells. Instead, this food technology uses microflora – a term encompassing many small organisms such as yeast, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms safe for human consumption. Using precision fermentation techniques, microflora is programmed to produce proteins such as casein, whey (found in dairy products), and egg whites. These animal-free egg white proteins can then be used to make many of the foods we enjoy, such as desserts and other baked goods.

Various types of fungi are also being used to create meat alternatives. Mushrooms, fungi roots (known as rhiza mycoprotein), and other microflora are being fermented, similar to the process of creating animal-free eggs and dairy. Through this fermentation process, a nutritious plant-based alternative that can take on the taste, shape, and texture of animal meats is created.

The Revolutionary Role of Foodservice 

While cultivated meat, fungi-based proteins and animal-free dairy products are not yet widely available, many companies are using food technology to make delicious products from plants available right now. These plant-based protein sources are foods that, in some cases, have long been available, can play an important role in a more sustainable food system, and can be found in many groceries and convenience stores. They are also becoming increasingly available to foodservice professionals through their distributors. Easy-to-prepare plant-based burgers and chicken products have become commonplace on mainstream restaurant menus and are smart additions for any establishment looking to appeal to the growing number of consumers seeking meat-free options. Nondairy milks and cheeses are also becoming more popular and more available at restaurants, hotels and other establishments.

As foodservice providers, you hold a unique role in influencing the dietary choices of your customers. With roughly 49% of the money spent on food by Americans going towards eating outside of the home, the availability of healthy, sustainable and tasty alternatives to traditional meat and dairy products in your establishments is critically important. With convenience being mentioned as a top potential barrier by those considering reducing meat and dairy product consumption, it is up to you to help remove that barrier by making these alternatives available to consumers where they eat most often. With your help in offering delicious plant-forward menu options, working with your distributors to broaden the availability of items as they come to market, and communicating with your customers about the benefits of these food technologies as they become available, we can make a true difference in the health of our planet and all of us who share it.

For information about free food education programs available for your school, university, healthcare facility, company, or community, visit or contact [email protected].

European Market Insights, China’s Food Policy, State of the Market Report  and More

Welcome to another selection of business stories from the past week or so. We have been keeping across what has been happening in the sector and scouring newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms to bring you the most interesting and important plant-based news. If you have news for us, why not get in touch? Email us at [email protected] with your stories!   

State of the Market Report  

The Plant Based Foods Association 2022 study found that consumer demand was strong, and sales were more resilient than expected. This is despite various difficulties facing the sector, such as the economic landscape and supply chain issues. Consumers are becoming more price-conscious, and companies need to adapt and innovate to secure ingredients and funding. The report looked at retail and e-commerce, food service trends and consumer insights for 2022. PBFA CEO Rachel Dreskin said: “The continued growth of plant-based foods amidst the challenging backdrop of the global pandemic and supply network disruptions—which have upended the entire food system—speaks to this industry’s ability to connect with consumers, engage their desire to eat in alignment with their values, and provide delicious options that meet expectations, for every eating occasion,”

European Market Insights  

Sales of plant-based food grew by 6% in 2022 and 21% from 2020-2022, reaching €5.8 billion, according to GFI Europe’s analysis of NeilsonIQ sales data. In 2022 plant-based meat sales grew to €2 billion, making up 6% of the pre-packaged meat market. Plant-based seafood and cheese also saw double-digit growth. GFI Europe says these figures are extremely promising given economic difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine, trade tensions and inflation.  

New Products  

Quorn’s Mycoprotein Available to Manufacturers  

Marlow Foods, the parent company of Quorn Foods, is making Quorn available to other food manufacturers. A new division, Marlow Ingredients, will make the mycoprotein, which has been sold as Quorn since 1985, available in Europe and beyond. Marco Bertecca, Marlow Foods CEO said: “By making our mycoprotein available to others, Marlow Ingredients will play a pivotal role in helping us achieve one of our missions – to tackle climate change by making great-tasting food.” 

Aleph Cuts Cultivated Steak  

Israel-based food tech company Aleph Farms has launched its first product brand, Aleph Cuts. The brand’s first offering will be a cultivated steak, which will be marketed in Israel and Singapore later this year if approval is granted. The steak is grown from non-modified cells of an Angus cow, and the company says there is no slaughter involved in production.  

Schouten Egg White 

Dutch plant-based company Schouten has launched a vegan egg white that behaves just like eggs from hens. Made from oil and soy protein, the product is designed for use in salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. The No Egg White cubes are available in 4.5-kilogram pouches that can last three months. Schouten has been making meat substitutes since the 1990s and supplies vegan meat and fish to more than 50 countries.  

Lypid Pork Belly 

Taiwanese food tech start-up Lypid has launched plant-based pork belly. Made from 100% plant-based ingredients and patented PhytoFat encapsulated oil technology, the pork belly is high in protein and lower in cholesterol, saturated fat, calories, and salt than its meat equivalent.  

Food Policy 

China’s Food Policy 

The Chinese government’s new policy statement calls for a diversified food supply system. The No. 1 Central Document for 2023 includes the development of plants, animals, microorganisms, edible fungi and algae-based foods. The document also highlights soya beans as a growth area. The Good Food Institute China reports that investment in alternative protein in China has grown significantly.  

Selfish Cow

New York City 

New York Mayor Eric Adams has announced plans to reduce the city’s carbon emissions from food purchases by 33% by 2030, as part of an effort to combat climate change. Mayor Adams has been key to getting plant-based food into the city’s public hospitals and is planning to expand the plant-based policy into public schools.  


Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s Neat Burger restaurant has opened its first US eatery, in New York. The new plant-based fast-food outlet is called Neat in Nolita. The burger chain already has six branches in London and one in the UAE. It plans to open 30 more outlets internationally.  

Plant Milk Labels, Miyoko Leadership Change, Yeast Meat and More

We have scoured all the news outlets to bring you the most important stories from plant-based businesses across the globe. Here are the top stories from the last couple of weeks.   

Plant Milk Labels 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says plant milks can be called milk, under new proposed guidance. But they must explain the nutritional difference between plant milk and dairy. The guidance acknowledges that consumers understand that plant milk isn’t dairy but recommend plant milks display a label clarifying the difference.   

Company News 

Miyoko’s Leadership Change  

Leading vegan cheese company Miyoko’s Creamery has announced the departure of founder and CEO Miyoko Schinner. Business Wire reports that the founder and company have parted ways as the company enters a new stage of growth. Company CFO Jon Blair has taken the role of interim President.  

Kellogg Keeps Plant-based Range 

The US Food Giant is keeping its plant-based offering rather than separating it into a new independent company. Plant-Based represents 2% of the company’s net sales. Kellogg owns the meat-alternative brand Morning Star Farms and Incogmeato.  

Impossible New Products  

The California food producer has just launched three new chicken items. The nuggets, patties and tenders will be sold frozen in supermarkets across the US. Green Queen reports that Impossible Foods directors say growth is solid, with retail sales up 55%, and strong performance in foodservice and other sectors.  

Fazer Drops Dairy  

Finnish producer Fazer is ending dairy production to focus on oat drinks and products. In a press release the firm, whose products include chocolate, confectionery and baked goods, said it will stop dairy operations at its Koria plant by August 2023. It said the change “will enable the company to focus on the plant-based core business, in which the Koria factory plays an important role in the future.”  

Danone’s Non-Dairy Nutrition Drink  

Danone’s Nutricia nutrition drinks business has created a plant-based medical nutrition drink. Following three years of development it has launched Fortimel Plant Based Energy, a ready-to-drink supplement aimed at those with medical malnutrition who avoid dairy. 

Market Reports 

Vegan Yogurt  

The global vegan yogurt market is expected to be worth $2.1 Billion by 2027, according to a report. The category is predicted to show growth of 18.11% between 2021 and 2027.   

Scaling Up 

Expansion For Olive and Melon Seed Cheese  

Spanish vegan cheese brand Vacka has won funding worth €1.1 Million to expand its products made from olive oil and fermented melon seeds. Vegconomist reports that funders included Capital V, Big Idea Ventures, Leanox Venture capital and private investors. Last year Vacka achieved a turnover of €285,000 with a sales increase of 300%  

New Factory For Brewer’s Yeast Meat  

Californian company Planetarians has raised $6 million to build a factory for its innovative vegan meat. The company uses spent brewer’s yeast from beer production and soy flakes from the vegetable oil industry to make vegan whole cuts. Veg News reports that funders include Mindrock, Traction Fund and beer giant AB InBev who already collaborates with Planetarians on upcycling brewer’s yeast.  

 NH Foods Develops Plant-Based Seafood  

Leading Japanese food manufacturer NH Foods has developed plant-based seafood. The supplier of meat and fish has spent a year creating fish fries and popcorn shrimp from soya beans with seaweed extracts. The company says it wants to expand plant-based protein pre-cooked foods.  

Retail and Foodservice  

Cambridge Students Vote For Plant-Based Food 

Students at Cambridge University have voted to transition to vegan catering. The students’ union decision was backed by 72% of voters. It follows campaigning by Plant Based Universities, a nationwide initiative calling for universities to introduce plant-based food.  

Veggie Grill Franchise Opportunities  

Vegan burger restaurant chain Veggie Grill will be franchising its model and is reaching out to entrepreneurs  seeking a franchise opportunity. The California-based 35-branch eatery will be launching franchise deals and says it will provide comprehensive training and support for franchisees.  

Ikea Declares End to Dairy  

Swedish retailer Ikea says it aims to remove or replace dairy across its stores. The company also says it plans to make all its main meals in its restaurants 50 percent plant-based by 2025. 

Beam Available in The UAE, Grass Protein, Plant-based on Campus and Market Reports

We’ve been tracking the news for the best plant-based stories. From news outlets across the globe and our own industry insiders – here are the most interesting and relevant news stories from the last couple of weeks.   

Veganuary Effect  

Organisers say the annual January challenge broke all records. More than 700,000 officially signed up, from almost every country in the world. In the UK a YouGov survey found that 4% of brits participated, and that overall 9% have participated since the challenge began a decade ago. The growth of Veganuary was food for thought around plant-based investment in a column by Moira O’Neill in the Financial Times.  

Market Reports – predicted growth in plant-based foods 


The vegan egg substitute market is predicted to grow at rate of 39% by 2028, according to a new report from Market Intelligence Data. The study says the increase is driven by concerns about food safety, and that the use of antibiotics and hormones are driving consumers to plant-based substitutes. As a result some food companies are phasing out or reducing the use of eggs in their supply chain and switching to plant-based alternatives.  

Protein Shakes   

Health concerns are also driving the growth of vegan protein shakes. Digital Journal reports that industry analysis found that consumers embracing healthy lifestyle are driving the adoption of vegan shakes.  

Vegan Chocolate 

The vegan chocolate market is set to surpass $1975.2 million, with a growth rate of 15%, by 2028 according to Vantage Market Research. The most popular category is bars, with demand driven by teenagers and employees at work leading the trend in plant-based snacking. Awareness of environmental issues, animal cruelty and health are cited as factors in the trend.  

Research and Development 

Grass Protein 

The rumour that vegans eat grass could become reality, as grass is being trialled as an ingredient in plant-based meat. Food Ingredients First says Schouten Europe and Grassa are researching the potential of grass protein to replace soy in meat substitutes. According to Grassa’s director, grass produces 2.5 times as much protein per hectare as soy and could soon be made into human food.  

UK’s First Cultivated Pork Steak  

UK scientists have produced the world’s first cultivated pork steak. The cut was made from pig cells by Newcastle-based biotech start-up 3D BioTissues. This report is from Food Manufacture.  

Scaling Up  

Cultivated Meat in China  

Green Queen reports on the development of the first cultivated meat plant in mainland China. Start-up CellX and manufacturer Tofflon have agreed a partnership to scale-up cultivated meat in the Asian market with the new factory. Building has already started, and manufacturing is expected to start in mid-2023.  

 Omni Dog Food 

Vegan dog food Omni has reached its crowdfunding target of nearly $500k according to Pet Business World. The company surpassed its goal within 15 minutes of going live on the Seedrs platform, the fasted ever success in the dog food category.   

New School Foods Plant-Based Salmon  

New School Foods has secured $12 million of seed funding to build a pilot plant for its plan-based fish. Food Dive says funders include Lever VC, Hatch, Good Startup and Blue Horizon Ventures. The company is developing realistic plant-based fish fillets using a freezing process instead of extrusion.   

Algae ingredients  

French company Algama, making algae-based ingredients has achieved investments worth $13 million, according to the Fish Site. Their most promising product is Tamalga, designed to be a replacement for eggs in baking.  



Ukranian start-up GreenGo is expanding its tofu-based cheese production despite the ongoing war. Food Ingredients First says the business is planning a new factory close to the Polish border to enable it to ship products to the EU and beyond. The company also makes plant-based seafood and steak from a mixture of pea protein, wheat, and soya.  

Meati Mushroom Factory 

A “MegaRanch” that farms mushrooms instead of cows has opened in the US. Millions of pounds of mycelium-based meat will be produced every year by Colorado-based Meati in the new facility. This from Plant based News 

 Rebellyous Nuggets 

Plant-based nugget brand Rebellyous has raised $9.5 million for a new manufacturing system, according to Food Dive’s reporter Megan Poinski. Rebellyous aims to produce inexpensive convenient comfort food that undercuts chicken on price. Founder, CEO and former Boeing engineer Christie Lagally told Food Dive: “Such a huge majority of consumers will totally replace their chicken if they can just get that price point there,” 

Every Co Egg Alternative 

Plant Based News reports that actor Anne Hathaway is among the investors in plant-based egg. She is putting up an undisclosed amount into the San Francisco-based EVERY Co that uses precision fermentation to create egg protein without chickens. The company has raised $230 million in total.  

Retail and foodservice  

Juicy Marbles in UK supermarket 

Juicy Marbles steaks have gone on sale in UK supermarket Waitrose. The Slovenian-based start-up, founded by microbiologist Luka Sincek, makes ultra-realistic high protein mock-meat that is bought raw and caramelises like animal flesh when cooked. In November 2021 the company raised $4.5 million seed funding to produce the steak.  

Beam Available in The UAE  

Allergen-free plant-based snack bars from Northern Ireland’s Bream brand are now on sale in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The range are available in stores run by Spinneys, Grandiose and Waitrose in the region.  

Plant-Based on Campus 

Vegan restaurants are making their way into university campuses, as students increasingly look for plant-based options. According to Veg News Bryant University in Rhode Island will be home to a branch of Plant City X, and Georgia Tech in Atlanta will be home to a Slutty Vegan at its John Lewis Student Center. Slutty Vegan is reported to have secured $25 million in investments to expand across several states.  

Plant Based World Expo Europe Doubles in Size as Industry Booms

Europe’s only dedicated plant-based trade event, Plant Based World Expo Europe, returned bigger and better last week at London Olympia with twice as much floorspace as the previous year, demonstrating the huge growth and innovation that has taken place in the plant-based food sector in 2022.   

The show also welcomed a 94% increase in attendees compared to 2021, with visitors from across the food service, retail, distribution, and investment sectors, including senior decision-makers from the likes of Tesco, M&S, ALDI, Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado, Sodexo, ISS, Bidfood, Sysco, Aramark, LEON, Papa Johns Pizza, Burger King, The Restaurant Group and Greggs to name a few.  

Future eating habits and new opportunities were at the heart of the show as the industry came together to reflect on the progress of the plant-based sector and explore what the next generation of plant-based eating looks like, with the latest innovations available on the show floor to taste.  

Image: Elena Devis, Head of Vegan Category, Deliveroo

Leaders from some of the biggest food brands in the world, including Deliveroo, Wagamama, Sainsbury’s, and Quorn, offered their insight on how plant-based ingredients are transforming consumers’ view of food and presenting significant business growth opportunities during the conference programme. 

With a unique take on how businesses can convert the masses, Emily Weston, Head of Brand Development at Wagamama, joined the ‘Persuading consumers to try plant-based’ session: “Launching vegan dishes and menus isn’t just about appeasing vegans. We want more people to try vegan foods and when we introduce new plant-based dishes to our menus we see participation spike.”  

The Culinary Theatre was also a hive of activity with live cooking demonstrations using some of the most innovative plant-based products available. Ten sessions took place across two days, including an interactive demonstration from BOSH! which offered visitors an exclusive preview of its new sauces to make an authentic and delicious lasagne. Unfished also took part to demonstrate the progress in the fish-less category by creating tuna rolls, whilst Redefine Meat showcased how plant-based foods can be incorporated in fine dining using its tenderloin and new premium cuts.   

Alongside the interactive show content, over 150 exhibitors from around the world showcased the products capturing the attention of a wider pool of consumers to bring plant-based eating into the mainstream. The show floor included a broad range of brands, from household names to innovative new start-ups including Verdino, Moving Mountains, Mock, Meatless Farm, Redefine Meat, Thanks Plants, The Raging Pig Company, unMeat, Wicked Kitchen, Quorn, Tiba Tempeh, MozzaRisella, and Shicken.   

Hosted Buyers Programme

To give buyers exclusive access to exhibitors and help participating brands forge new connections with decision makers also hosted a buyers programme. Over 400 meetings took place across two days, helping the industry to form new business relationships and bring more plant-based foods to shelves and menus.  

One buyer who enjoyed the show was Heerum Flearly, Procurement Consultant at Tickeat Ltd, who said: “The hosted buyer programme has been really beneficial. The show has been so busy, and I’ve been surprised by the breadth on offer. Plant Based World Expo has created a very strong plant-based community and I definitely want to be part of it next year.” 

Having experienced exponential growth in its first two years, Plant Based World Expo Europe has announced that the show will take place at the ExCeL, London’s biggest venue, for 2023. The event began in London’s Business Design Centre in 2021, before moving to London Olympia for this year’s edition.  

Jonathan Morley, Managing Director of Plant Based World Expo Europe, concludes: “We are thrilled that support for our show has been so strong this year, so much so that Plant Based World Expo is moving to an even bigger venue in 2023. We are proud to provide the perfect platform to facilitate collaboration across the industry to realise the business opportunities that further integrating plant-based foods into the mainstream represents, all whilst improving both our health and the environment. We can’t wait for next year!”  

About Plant Based World Expo Europe 

Plant Based World Expo is the only 100% plant-based event for trade professionals – retailers, foodservice, hospitality, distributors, manufacturers, and investors. This unique show combines a world-class conference with an international exhibition of the most innovative products on the market, as well as high-level networking and product tasting opportunities.  

The mission of Plant Based World Expo is simple: connecting and empowering businesses to successfully develop, source and distribute plant-based products.  Plant Based World Expo Europe is arriving at ExCeL London on 15th and 16th November 2023, be the first to hear when registration opens by joining the mailing list: or visit 

What’s Next in Plant-Based Catering?

The plant-based movement shows no signs of slowing down and that means even more choices for caterers that want to expand their plant-based offerings. To stay competitive in this ever-changing landscape, it helps to stay ahead of the hottest plant-based trends–from innovative ingredients and techniques to game-changing advances in flavorings and textures. Here are six catering trends to watch for 2023. 


Fun & nostalgia.

After a very challenging few years, people are yearning for carefree fun and whimsy. For kids and kids-at-heart, think dairy-free DIY sundae bars and ice-cream sandwiches made with products such as Ripple frozen desserts and dairy-free Eclipse ice-cream. A yearning for simpler times also means more comfort food. Classics like Sloppy Joes, Chicken Parm, sliders, and tacos made with proteins from companies like Before the Butcher, No Evil Foods, and Blackbird Foods are also popping up on catering menus across the country and will likely continue to be popular for the foreseeable future. 


Global cuisine.

Certified Master Chef James Corwell has seen growing interest in international dishes such as plant-based Chicken Tikka, Swiss Braised “Steak” with Mushroom Sauce, Dim Sum, and Coq au Vin. He says that to create the plant-based version of Steak Diane, for example, you need good vegan beef flavoring from yeast, mushroom stock, natural caramel color (optional), lentil cream, Dijon, shallots and mushrooms sautéed in a high quality vegan butter, salt, pepper and fresh tarragon.  


Plant-based corporate and institutional catering.

Hospitals, corporate catering, and schools are beginning to embrace more non-meat options, recognizing the health, environmental and bottom line benefits. “Personal awareness has been there but now more college and corporate campuses are bringing more and more vegan offerings than ever before,” says Corwell. One example:  Thanks to an initiative from Sodexo and the Humane Society of the United States, hundreds of university menus across the United States will increase their plant-based meal offerings to 42 percent of total meals by 2025. 


Next-level plant-based seafood.

The plant-based seafood category continues to push the envelope with companies like Good Catch Foods, which makes a variety of dishes from classic tuna in mayo to popcorn shrimp to salmon burgers. The Mind Blown Plant Based Seafood Company ups the ante with plant-based shrimp and scallops that’ll fit right in at your next beach themed soiree. Both are made with konjac, a root vegetable that is grown in parts of Asia 

Stellar sauces.

Want to serve a French-inspired feast with classically prepared sauces that don’t use animal products? Corwell says that yeast-derived flavors are getting better all the time, while mushroom powders help create depth of flavor similar to meat. He also says that “cream” from lentils that doesn’t taste like coconut is a game changer. “And never under estimate caramelized tomato paste, fresh herbs and classical aromatics like onion, carrot, celery and garlic, which are time tested and never go out of style,” he adds.  


All the Fixins’.

Sure, you can have your pick of plant-based burgers and “chicken” patties but what about the bread and toppings? Fast-casual caterers now have their pick of condiments, toppings and sauces that make plant-based burgers, salads, and sandwiches even more craveable and 100% vegan. Choices range from Vegenaise and American Cheese from Follow Your Heart  to Daiya creamy salad dressing for a classic plant-based Caesar Salad to a Filet No Fish from Good Catch topped with plant-based cheese and a classic tartar sauce without dairy. 



Ben Davis is the VP of Content at Plant Based World Expo, North America’s only professional 100% plant-based focused event. 


Transforming Hospital Menus with Plant Based Food

Given the scientific data on the benefits of a plant-based diet in managing, preventing and reversing medical conditions, you would expect vegan meals to be easily available in healthcare facilities. In reality, persuading hospitals to remove animal products from the menu is still a challenge. However, some committed doctors and pioneering manufacturers are now bringing plant-based hospital food into the mainstream.  

We know of just one fully plant-based hospital, the Hayek in Beirut, Lebanon, which decided in March 2021 to serve exclusively vegan food. It shared the reasons in a strongly worded statement: “Our patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk, and eggs. The very foods that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place. When the World Health Organisation classifies processed meat as a group 1A carcinogen, the same as tobacco, and red meat as group 2A carcinogenic, then serving meat in a hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital.”  

Plant-Based by Default 

In the US and UK, plant-based health advocates are hoping this will be part of a trend for better access to healthy plant-based food. And a significant success in New York suggests that health institutions are starting to listen. In October 2022 New York public hospitals announced that they will serve plant-based lunches as the default option. The pilot scheme, operating across eleven hospitals, means vegan meals will be the standard lunchtime offering. Animal products will be available on request.  

The transition was facilitated by the Greener by Default initiative from the Better Food Foundation. The plant-based campaign group has already helped 50 institutions including universities, NGOs and companies switch to vegan meals by default.  

 Jennifer Channin, Executive Director of the Better Food Foundation believes that defaults are one of the most promising ways to change how people eat: “If folks don’t specifically request meat or dairy, they get a plant-based meal. Patients are presented first with a menu of recommended plant-based specials. If they don’t want those specials, they’re then given other options. Plant-based is currently the default lunchtime menu and there are plans to introduce it at dinnertime too.”  

Health as a Priority 

Catering in New York public hospitals is provided by Sodexo, one of the world’s biggest foodservice companies. The Better Food Foundation is also working with Sodexo on a similar plant-based default pilot at three university dining halls. Jennifer Channin says the transition has been met with enthusiasm: “The hospitals have been supportive because improving the health of patients is obviously one of their highest priorities. Though still in the pilot phase, the change has made ripples throughout the hospitals’ catering services. Our team has been working with the hospital chefs, helping them choose recipes for this pilot, and helping foodservice administrators communicate their new plants-by-default offerings.”  

She says despite some initial scepticism the pilot has been met with approval: “Institutions expect plant-based meals to be unpopular, so getting leaders to agree to a pilot is a first step. But the move resulted in a 95% approval rating even though fewer than 1% of patients were vegetarian or vegan. This shows that plant-based meals are widely accepted and popular when they become the norm.”  

She hopes that this will be the start of a domino effect, with more hospitals offering plant-based meals as the norm: “Our Greener by Default team has lots of resources to help hospital administrators and health professionals make these changes. We know that the conventional Western diet, heavy on meat and dairy, is a major contributor to serious health problems. This is the case in New York City where diet-related conditions like heart disease are leading causes of death. That’s why it is urgent to send a different message to patients about what kinds of diets are the norm.”   

Global Movement 

Dr Shireen Kassam is a leading British plant-based nutrition advocate and the founder of Plant Based Health Professional UK. She is a consultant haematologist at King’s College Hospital, London, and a visiting professor of plant-based nutrition at Winchester University. She has been vegan since 2013 and is working to make plant-based meals more available and popular for both patients and staff.  

Dr Kassam says raising awareness amongst health professionals is crucial: “We’re focusing on educating health professionals around the country, with talks, webinars, and downloadable information to share with patients. At King’s we have quite an extensive vegan menu, but we need to support staff and patients to make changes. We’ve been working on the new inpatient menu, which changes every six months, and I hope that by the next change we’ll have removed processed red meat.  

We know that people eating a plant-based diet have significantly lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and use less medications. We should be teaching people when they’re in hospital, how to eat well. We need to support people to make better choices and give them the tools to eat better with their families and communities.” 

Ongoing Challenges 

Transitioning away from traditional meat-based meals has not been without challenges. One initiative was Meatless Mondays during the international No Meat May campaign: “Removing processed red meat as a minimum made sense given that it is considered a group 1 carcinogen but getting people to join in proved difficult. During May some staff satisfied meat cravings with trips to on-site retail chains. For patient meals, nutritionists do have a say, but many still consider meat a good source of protein and calories and are reluctant to remove familiar and popular dishes from the menu.” 

The conversation became easier when the NHS committed to Net Zero. King’s has now committed to moving to a plant-based food environment and removing processed red meat from its menus. Its main caterers, MediRest and Compass have also committed to reducing meat-based meals. UK hospitals are now more likely to have an extensive vegan menu, such as this one at Nottingham University Hospitals.  

Dr Kassam believes one way forward is for health professionals and plant-based businesses to work together to make plant-based food a more desirable choice: “It would be great if businesses could pitch to hospital catering managers with products and recipe ideas. Or offer a plant-based vending machine for out of hours catering. Hillingdon Hospital is trying a vegan vending machine and we need more trials to find out what sells well. We also need more deals for the NHS to make these items price competitive, so we can show that plant-based food is tasty, nutritious and good value for everyone.”