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Spotlight: Inspiring a Plant-Based Menu Offering

Last year we discussed a recent spike and interest in plant-based food and we are back to say business is booming. In the wake of a pandemic, consumers are re-evaluating their nutrition strategy and using this time to discover healthier lifestyle choices. During March, we saw plant-based food brands flourish next to their animal protein competitors with a 90% increase in retail sales compared to 2019.

Fast-casual favorites including Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Qdoba, Subway, and White Castle are taking advantage of this surge by expanding plant-based options, launching new products, and diversifying plant protein choices. By incorporating innovative, plant-forward foods, these companies are helping a wide variety of consumers meet their health goals.

Pandemic shopping habits have also shifted to a focus on freezer-friendly and extended shelf-life protein options that support at-home meal experiences. Consumers are seeking out wholesome ingredients opening the door for retailers and restaurants to feature the natural hues of fresh fruits and veggies.

While a colorful Instagram shot of an Impossible burger may increase your plant-based following, there is a real growing awareness that a diet incorporating more plant-based foods has a significant impact on our carbon footprint. This desire to eat more plants and protect the environment is especially true with Gen Z’ers, our no-nonsense generation willing to do whatever it takes to make a difference.   

Skeptical if the plant-based food industry has staying power? Although uncertain times lie ahead, fresh data from Meticulous Research shows the plant-based food market is expected to be worth $74.2 billion by 2027. Once considered a trend, plant-based foods have entered the mainstream.

With growing interest in protecting the health of humans, animals, and the planet, leaner menu options with simple ingredients are crucial to satisfying this taste evolution. This new landscape can be a challenge so W5 engaged key consumers as co-creators to flesh out the needs and desires of the non-meat marketplace consumers.

The case study below highlights how W5 leveraged customer voices to grant a quick-service restaurant permission to play in the plant-based space.

Inspiring a Plant-Based Menu Offering

A storied QSR brand partnered with W5 to explore and refine a series of new plant-based menus to guide its path forward. A primary goal was to identify attitudes and openness to new plant-based proteins to determine which flavor combinations and ingredients would best satisfy nutritional needs and cravings.

Approach

W5 conducted a series of discussion groups with QSR customers representing varying levels of interest in plant-based foods. During each discussion, W5 moderators, alongside clients and participants, discussed food habits, nutritional needs, and expectations for plant-based proteins.  General group discussions explored food trends and reactions to existing plant-based proteins while a series of “mini-groups” broadened understanding of desires for plant-based proteins by exploring food personalities, development of ideal plant-based QSR menu items, and mapping of currently available meatless options.

Results

W5 identified current likes, dislikes, and challenges for plant-based meat offerings to determine best practices and pitfalls. In addition to a final report, close collaboration with the client during fielding allowed W5 to deliver findings as the research unfolded through “quick wins.” This information was then used to determine which ingredient combinations, nutritional requirements, and flavor pairings would best fit with the client’s current offerings which in turn steered development of one or two select plant-based menu items for further testing.

Interested in leveraging innovative solutions to guide menu strategies and customer experience research at your organization? Reach out to learn why two decades of experience working in the food and restaurant category makes W5 an ideal partner.

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