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.
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
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.