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Plant-Based Proteins are Putting Down Roots

Remember Meatless Mondays? Well now, meatless days are taking over the calendar. Meatless proteins – both plant-based and meat-substitutes – are here and on the move.

This ever-growing trend now sees dishes featured at all meal occasions including those involving beverages and snacks. According to Technomic, plants are cropping up on menus across the country, with spiralized veggie noodles, nut and grain-based milks and indulgent plant-based proteins all poised to become a substantial focal point on many menus in Canadian restaurants. In fact, 27% of consumers aged 18-34 regularly consume vegetarian substitutes, compared to 15% of consumers aged 35+, and we all know how Millennials are influencing the culinary zeitgeist.

Want to jump on the plant-based revolution?


Don't be a has-bean

Beans and legumes are a great source of protein, with interest in previously lesser known varieties sparking customers’ interest. McCormick Canada Executive Corporate Chef Juriaan Snellen shares his insights: “In the McCormick test kitchen, we have been playing around a lot with beans and using them in alternative ways. Black beans in chocolate brownies add fibre and moistness without negatively affecting flavour. We’ve also seen an increase in the usage of more uncommon beans like mung or adzuki. These types of beans are an excellent base for dips or spreads. We currently serve an adzuki bean dip seasoned with Berbere Spice to illustrate our East African trend in the 2018 Flavour Forecast.”

Flex your options

Add more meatless options to your menu to appeal to the new flexers. The eating habits of Canadians are ever-evolving, as Darcy Ring, Director of Sales, Ontario/Atlantic, Maple Leaf Foods, illustrates: “In Canada we are seeing a rise in flexitarianism, with 80% of meat-eating Canadians consuming meatless meals at least two times per week. These consumers are choosing to eat less meat in their diet, with two types of “flexers” – unconscious and conscious. The unconscious flexer is looking for taste and variety while the conscious flexer is looking to reduce (meat consumption) for lifestyle reasons – but taste is a must. They will not sacrifice flavour or selection so operators will need to keep things interesting.”

Veg that burger

Burgers and patties, meatless or otherwise, are still some of the strongest menu items going. Here’s what burger-related trends McCormick Canada is tracking and exploring: “The veggie burger has come a long way,” says Snellen. “What used to be a toasted bun layered with lettuce, tomatoes and onions has now become a serious menu item representing a growing percentage of sales.” 

Peas please

As for patties themselves, “Pea protein seems to be the ingredient of choice,” Snellen offers. “Made from yellow split peas, it delivers the right texture as well as a helping of essential amino acids. This protein powder is usually mixed with beet juice to naturally resemble the appearance of a beef patty.” But without the guilt.

Make mine umami

When it comes to flavourful add-ins, Snellen suggests, “At McCormick, we like to pair up alternative meat proteins with umami flavours, as this is a great way to boost the overall flavour υ experience without going overboard on sodium and sugar levels. You can add umami seasoning to pretty much anything, from sauce and condiments to cheese and freshly baked buns.”

No meat, no problem!

At Maple Leaf Foods, they’ve been on top of the meatless burger and patty trend for quite some time, as the recent oh naturel!® launch will attest to. “oh naturel!® has been building a real-food revolution with plant protein using the simplest ingredients that are rich in flavour, nutrition and protein,” says Ring. “Together, with our world-class chefs, we’ve crafted four outstanding products using only non-soy plant-based ingredients like Portobello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, quinoa, long grain brown rice, roasted green and red bell peppers, chickpeas, spinach, black beans and more. These are not only unbelievably delicious but are also good for you and the planet!” Maple Leaf Foods’ new oh naturel!® lineup includes a Black Bean Bite, a Garden Bite, a Portobello Mushroom Patty and a Spinach and Chickpea Patty. 

Toast the taste

Regardless of the protein, great taste is decidedly key. “Alternate proteins are here to stay as an addition to meats, but not to replace them completely,” says Snellen. “We could all use more plant-based proteins in our diets, but this doesn’t always have to resemble common meat products like burgers, bacon or sausages. A healthy helping of vegetables in a vegetarian salad or stew is just as appealing, provided it tastes good!”