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Amid surging inflation, many restaurants are making 1 big change to their menus: 'They can manage costs'

"We're seeing trends around healthier living and around eating less meat."

veganuary menu changes

Photo Credit: iStock

Plant-based meal options have seen an ever-increasing presence on menus across the globe — thanks in part to rising food prices and the increased popularity of "Veganuary."

As you might have guessed, Veganuary is the merging of the two words "vegan" and "January," and it's the name of an annual month-long resolution to not eat meat. With humble beginnings as a simple way for people to explore new diets, it has since exploded in popularity.

Where there's popularity, there is market demand, and businesses have broadened their menus and shelf selections to accommodate this growing interest in plant-based foods.

Data collected by Lumina Intelligence found that in 2018, between 4% and 7% of new meat substitute products had their debut in grocery stores. In 2022, the figure has essentially doubled to 12%. 

In a survey of 150 popular U.K. restaurant chains, Lumina found that only 33% of all main courses include meat. For appetizers, the figure was even less: just 12%. 

Customer-driven interest in plant-based foods is only half of the story.

The rising costs of preparing meat items have had their own impact. Lumina Intelligence found that in a three-month period, the price for a restaurant to plate a dish rose by 7.9%, a huge shift for such a small window of time.

Generally, meats are more expensive to procure, and items like eggs have seen a recent explosion in price. While plant-based foods have also seen increased prices, they still have favorable profit margins when compared to traditional meat options.

These factors combined have motivated these industry changes toward a more plant-based dining environment. 

"We're seeing trends around healthier living and around eating less meat, and restaurants are tapping into that," Katherine Prowse, Senior Manager at Lumina Intelligence, told the Guardian. "The benefit is they can manage costs at the same time because they're saving on meat and saving on portion sizes."

The push for plant-based foods presents a much-needed change in our food production. Cattle produce a tremendous amount of polluting gases, and on average require tons of water and land. Entire forests are destroyed to make room for factory farms producing beef, pork, chicken, and other animal products.

Less demand for these foods, coupled with their increasing cost, may help to make vegan foods even more broadly desirable and will likely drive future demand for them.

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