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Enhancing Retail with Plant-Based Foodservice: A Shopper Experience

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The National Retail Federation’s 2024 trends highlight transforming retail spaces into foodservice destinations. This approach turns shopping into an experiential journey, inviting customers to linger and engage more deeply. For retailers looking to tap into this trend, adding vegan options to your foodservice counter or hot bar is not only timely but also aligns with the growing demand for plant-based dining.

Here are six fully plant-based dishes that are perfect for hot bar and deli counter applications in a grocery store environment:

  • Vegan Shepherd’s Pie: A comforting classic, this dish features a savory blend of lentils and vegetables, topped with creamy mashed potatoes. It’s hearty, satisfying, and a perfect fit for a hot bar. Include a plant-based chicken or meat alternative to up the protein content, or keep it whole-foods as a healthier option.
  • BBQ Pulled Jackfruit: Pulled jackfruit, drenched in a smoky BBQ sauce, served a la carte on the hot bar or in a whole wheat wrap with vegan coleslaw at the deli counter. Jackfruit is a wholesome and versatile ingredient with a meaty mouthfeel, perfect for a variety of food service applications.
  • Mushroom and Walnut Bolognese: A rich and flavorful alternative to traditional meat sauces, this bolognese combines mushrooms and walnuts for a satisfying texture, ideal for a hot bar serving pasta or as a standalone dish. Add some plant-based beef to up the protein content and heartiness.
  • Thai Coconut Curry Tofu: Aromatic and vibrant, this curry dish with tofu, bell peppers, and bamboo shoots in a rich coconut sauce can add an international flair to your foodservice offering. Serve on the hot bar with steamed white or brown rice.
  • Buffalo Cauliflower Bites: Spicy and tangy, these bites are a crowd-pleaser and can be served as a hot bar snack or a side dish at the deli counter. They’re a great way to introduce customers to flavorful plant-based eating in a traditional format. Don’t forget to offer plant-based ranch dressing for your customers’ dipping pleasure!
  • Plant-Based Cold Cuts: A nostalgic favorite that is often overlooked as a plant-based option. Vegan deli slices are a trend worth watching – once your chef picks a favorite and adds it to your traditional sandwich menu your store will become a plant-based deli destination! Plant-based deli meats can be swapped with their traditional animal counterparts, instantly turning every menu option into a choice for both vegan and flexitarian shoppers.

By incorporating these plant-based dishes into your retail foodservice, you cater to the evolving tastes of consumers who are increasingly seeking healthier, more sustainable dining options. These dishes go beyond the typical salad bar, offering a diverse range of flavors and ingredients, from plant-based meat alternatives to whole-food ingredients.

The addition of a plant-based foodservice counter or hot bar can transform a retail space into a culinary destination, encouraging customers to spend more time and potentially increase their overall spend. It’s an effective way to tap into the trend of experiential retail, making the shopping trip not just about purchases but also about enjoying a meal that aligns with modern dietary trends and values.