Redefining American Cuisine Through a Protein Lens

Feb 15, 2023Savory

Okay, let’s talk about protein. We know what it does for the body, right?

Proteins keep us fuller longer; they help our muscles grow, contract, and move. Proteins support our immune system, they support DNA/RNA, and they help us grow fingernails, and a protein-heavy diet helps make this author’s wavy hair curly! (Wavy/curly-haired girls unite!)

In fact, for Gen Z, protein is the number one diet dominating their purchasing habits (Tastewise).

So now that we’ve been reminded of what proteins can do for us, let’s talk about protein consumption and the changing protein landscape.

American Redefined

We at Givaudan have talked about something we’re dubbing “American Redefined” for years. #Humblebrag: this is showcased in our discussion around our 2019 Chef’s Council event, where we focused exclusively on protein in all its forms. But American Redefined is a holistic, better-for-you way of living via the food and beverage choices we make – it’s really being conscious about laying your wellness. We all know the term “flexitarian,” and I believe we will be them, that will be us within a few years – we’ll all be flexitarian whether we know it or not.

But let’s deep dive into what “American Redefined” means for various Center of Plate options.

Traditional Meats

meatEveryone knows traditional animal meats provide a good source of protein. It’s the focal point of many meals. But meat is getting a bad rap lately – or is it? Poultry is the king of the henhouse when it comes to affordable protein options, while red meat is seen as more expensive and less healthy. 85% of consumers polled recently said chicken was their last traditional protein source they consumed (Datassential). And the lengthy ingredient statement lists on some plant-based meat proteins give pause to consumers.

One place I see lacking in the traditional animal meat space is pork. We should lean into pork as it’s a great source of protein but doesn’t get marketed much in the market (save for bacon). But by utilizing this traditional animal protein, we can make more options in the market for consumers to choose from. We should also include pork in more of our ready-to-make meals and in our online sharing. My husband does a mustard pork tenderloin dish that is to die for!

Traditional animal meat isn’t going away anytime soon. However, brands may need to consider their animal-raising practices and their environmental footprint, as well as marinade/seasoning blended flavors to appeal to all as ready-to-make meals, grilling authenticity, and highlighting the marketable values of all protein varieties. The plant-protein space doesn’t need to be an enemy of traditional animal meat; they can be friends when it comes to protein. So let’s talk about how.

Plant-Based Everything

plant-based burger

So I’m not sure if you’ve heard of these things called plant-based burgers? Just kidding. I don’t think I need to talk about the influx of plant-based meat options in the market today. In fact, some categories of plant-based meats are so saturated that brands are shutting down because they can’t compete in such a large market. So, let’s take a look at where the opportunities might be to tout protein in the plant-based space.

Consumers see plant-based whole foods to be healthier, but fewer consumers consider plant-based proteins as a complete source of protein. Leading them to seek out other protein options in traditional animal meats. I think there are three opportunities here to drive protein consumption further in the plant-based space:

  1. Flavor: It has to taste good. The combination of health and comfort is now synonymous. Try globally-inspired flavors, making authentic cooking methods inherent in the taste of your product, and it has to be more about the experience of the whole meal. Make it taste better. I’m not just talking about getting the right beef flavor on your burger; I’m talking about giving a consumer a whole meal with a great-tasting burger AND a great sauce to go on it AND a burger topping that can wow them.
  2. Combine your proteins. Many years ago, a very wise Givaudan employee told me that mixing proteins just makes things taste better. Can you create a product that combines plant-based and traditional animal protein? Can you combine two plant-based proteins with a protein-packed veggie in a ‘burger’ patty? Or can you create a whole meal where the protein content from plant-based meats, vegetables, and sides is the same protein content as a whole traditional burger patty? Give consumers more options to get proteins in a variety of ways.

    Our partners at Datassential say: “Mixing plant- and meat-based proteins could be key to engaging consumers. With concerns about taste and affordability regarding lower meat consumption, consumers do show interest in mixed protein dishes.”

     

  3. Affordability will always be a barrier to consumption of plant-based proteins if we do not have price parity with traditional animal meats

And lastly, plant-based cheese is severely lacking when it comes to protein options because it changes the mouthfeel of the product, it’s hard to get something that’s good. However, I believe that in the coming years, you will start to see more protein-boosted plant-based cheese options.

Breakfast

breakfastIt’s the most important meal of the day. And from that comes a desire for protein to satiate consumers through the morning hours
There is so much to talk about when it comes to redefining our needs for protein early in the day. Let’s break it down a bit more.

 

 

 

 

  • Protein Drinks: My colleague, the amazing Annaliese Hnat, dives into protein drinks more here.

  • Meats: Let’s hear it for short rib, lamb, meatballs, and other traditional dinner proteins for making a morning appearance! We’re seeing chicken tenders, rib steak, and even bologna have some major growth on breakfast menus over the last few years. Steak and eggs are a tailgate favorite, but short ribs paired with eggs make a great eggs benedict. Mix some roast beef, honeyed ham, steak, or even spiced turkey with a hash benedict. Pulled pork in an omelet? Yes, please!

   So when it comes to meats at breakfast, the world is your oyster. Oooo, maybe that’s a way to go? Oysters for breakfast? 😉

  • Eggs: This might be one of my favorite innovative breakfast pieces in the last few years. And the funny thing is: I hate eggs! However, using eggs as a way to add protein to any meal is awesome. We’ve seen egg whites be flattened and used as patties for breakfast tacos, wraps, and other sandwich carriers. The rise of the popularity of shakshuka also features eggs. All kinds of egg cooking techniques are rising: over-easy and scrambled once reigned supreme at breakfast, but now over-medium, over-hard, and even a side of a hard-boiled egg are gaining traction.And let’s not forget vegan eggs! 
  • Plant-based: If you take a look at the fastest-rising proteins on breakfast menus across America, you’ll find that 4 of the top 5 are plant-based proteins. Even adding plant-based meat protein alternatives on menus as sides is helpful for consumers seeking to boost their protein intake. Vegetarian sausage, links, or even hash-style protein options are in the adoption phase of the menu adoption curve.


Also, let’s not overlook grain bowls and using legumes as protein options. I see quinoa, lentils, and chickpeas as options to add to breakfast bowls or dishes.

Pizza

pizzaOkay, so this might be my favorite food. You can put a wide variety of ingredients on this application, and it’s no joke, always delicious. Pizza has always been a comfort food and will remain so, but as stated before, health and comfort are no longer solitary.

Consumers have been making strides over the last few years even with crusts. We’ve seen cauliflower crusts, broccoli crusts and gluten-free crusts, but now healthier crusts are getting in the game. We’re seeing crusts made from ancient grains, other vegetables and plants, we’re seeing artisan sourdough crusts that contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals, and we’re also seeing stealth veggies rise again in crusts. And this is only for CRUSTS!

Regarding ingredients, there’s no shortage of what consumers will put on pizzas. Plant-forward pizzas are in the inception phase of the trend, while mindful meals are right at the beginning adoption phase. Some fastest-growing ingredients and terms on pizza menus (over the last four years) lend themselves to this “American Redefined” style of living and eating:

  • Cauliflower +351% 
  • Vegan Cheese +159% 
  • Daiya (a brand of vegan cheese) +43%
  • Lime 72% 
  • Balsamic Reduction 66% 
  • “Gluten-free” +23%
  • “Vegan” +119%
  • Cauliflower (as a crust) +104%
  • “Vegetarian” style +8%
  • Breaded Eggplant +46%
  • Caprese +42%
  • Olive Oil Sauce +6%

Co-collaborating with a chef during your product or dish development can retain that comfort food feeling of the pizza with these ‘new’ healthier ingredients/terms. For instance, what about a plant-based ‘lamb’ shawarma flatbread: topped with herbed hummus, diced tomatoes, a sprinkle of feta, and a creamy cucumber garlic sauce? (see pizza image below) It’s vegetarian, but it’s so delicious. Take my word for it as this creation was developed by Givaudan’s culinary team to showcase that just because something is healthier for you, doesn’t mean the taste wanes.

veggie pizzaIf you want to go hog-wild on a vegetarian pizza, then why not create a flavorful drizzle or side dipping sauce? If I had a dollar for every time I said that “Sauce is the Hero” when it comes to vegetarian dishes or any dish really, I could retire at 40.

Thanks for joining me as I travel along this route of “American Redefined.” It’s incredibly fun and unique to see how various generations learn about food, their bodily needs, how to better treat the world, and make a difference just by their food choices. This won’t be the last of this “American Redefined” you’ll see from Givaudan. If you want more information, join our mailing list and get our newsletter; so you can keep up with American Redefined, other trending cuisines, and your friendly Givaudan experts!

*Source: Datassential for all menu growth insights

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