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Diners Dig Flexitarian Dishes

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Flexitarian Takes Root

Vegetables have gone from supporting roles to center-of-the-plate options in a trend that’s taken root across segments and dayparts. Call it root-to-stem or plot-to-plate – these days, no one has to be told “eat your veggies.”

“Fewer and fewer people are defining a rigid diet. They are now flexitarian and demand choices.” — Chef Tim Maness, Shamrock Foods Business Review Specialist

Increasingly, consumers are taking a flexitarian approach to dining, meaning they don’t always eat meat. Dining trends show that they’re choosing plant-based items in search of new flavors and innovative preparations of clean, better-for-you, and/or sustainably-sourced foods.

  • About a quarter of the U.S. population reports consuming plant-based foods and beverages on a regular basis in addition to animal protein.
  • More than half of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains now menu at least one purely plant-based entrée.
  • Grubhub reported a 19-percent surge in plant-based meal orders in 2017.

What’s the real attraction? Flavor. In 2019, expect more of a focus on everyday indulgences such as burgers and pizzas that happen to be meat-free and less about health and ethics.


Flexitarian-based dishes can improve margins and enhance profitability. Food costs are lowered as vegetables are inherently less expensive than meat proteins – and are even more cost-effective when seasonality’s leveraged. Moreover, root-to-stem cooking – an extension of the nose-to-tail movement in which every part of an animal is used – increases yields.

Consumer demand for flexitarian options further feed the bottom line. The popularity of these items facilitates premium pricing, which makes them more profitable.

Another plus: Vegetable versatility opens up opportunities for creativity. Innovate with plant-based items to refresh menus in sales-building ways that attract new customers and offer variety to existing ones.

Put your best veg forward

Customize. When possible, accommodate requests to make items meatless. Ensure waitstaff and culinary staff are trained on the possible modifications.

Craft craveability. Create signature plant-based items diners can’t get anywhere else. Try Markon® and Bountiful Harvest® for a jump start on flavorful veg.

Employ flavorful cooking methods. Roast, grill, braise, stir-fry and deep-fry to enhance vegetables’ flavor.

Build better burgers. Veggie burgers are one of the most popular plant-based menu items and demand for them is growing. Craft veggie burgers that mimic the look and texture of meat proteins. Top them as lavishly as you would any other burger on your menu.

Add meat. Flexitarian doesn’t necessarily mean meatless. Use small amounts of meat and meat broth to enhance flavor – just note that in your menu language. Try NAE items like Regal Crest Farms® Natural Reserve.

Batter up. Coat veggies with innovative tempura batters and breadings to enhance flavor and texture.

Serve plant-based sidekicks. House-pickle veggies for sandwiches, snacks, entrées and cocktail garnishes.

Kick up spices. Use global seasonings to banish blandness. Katy’s Kitchen® offers an array of flavorful spices and seasonings.

Add a twist to the familiar. Serve spiralized zucchini pastas, cauliflower “rice” and veg-gravies. Menu faux-meat snacks – e.g., veggie “pork” rinds and jerkies.

Boost visual appeal. Pile on the Markon® fresh herbs and veggies to add heigh and color to the plate.

Go global. Draw inspiration from cuisines such as Indian, African, Asian Mediterranean and Middle Eastern that emphasize vegetables.

Talk to your Shamrock Foods Sales Representative about how our top-quality produce lines, including Markon® and Bountiful Harvest®, can enhance your flexitarian dishes.

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