Q&A: Why now is the time to be plant proud
MorningStar Farms
June 21, 2018
Sponsored Content

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s.

Plant-based meals are gaining popularity with mainstream diners, driving a need for foodservice operators to offer crowd-pleasing dishes that put plants front and center. In this interview, Kellogg Vice President of Commercial and Custom Sales Matt Perry discusses what’s driving demand for plant-based dishes, what sets Kellogg’s MorningStar Farms and Gardenburger brands apart and what strategies foodservice operators can use to put plant-based proteins on the menu in a way that appeals to both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Kellogg VP of Commercial and Custom Sales Matt Perry
Perry

What's driving the rising demand for plant-based proteins and what are some of the key segments and demographics leading growth?

Plant based proteins are no longer just a necessary evil or “add-on” to a menu. Today’s consumers are looking for and choosing restaurants and locations that offer great-tasting plant based and veggie options and these delicious menu items can take center stage on a menu. Almost 80% of consumers eat plant-based proteins as least once a week, according to a report from Technomic.

Plant-forward foods can help support consumers’ health goals, while giving them great tasting and protein-rich options across the menu. More mainstream consumers -- led by millennials and Gen Z -- are eating more plant forward foods for many reasons, including taste, health, sustainability and more choice on menus.

Other players/manufacturers are entering the category. What is the difference between your brands and other brands?

Our MorningStar Farms and Gardenburger products use ingredients consumers know, can taste, can pronounce and can see in our food, including black beans, brown rice, spices and an array of colorful vegetables. We source many of our ingredients from family farms. Some of the recent entries into the plant-based and veggie category are primarily meat analogues, which approximate the characteristics of specific types of meat, and include ingredients that are harvested in a lab. They are also high in saturated fat, sourced from a high content of coconut oil. Not only is coconut oil high in saturated fat, the experience from these newer products can leave an unpleasant oily residue.

Crossover appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters is key to taking advantage of the plant-based movement, and Kellogg's Gardenburger and Morningstar Farms brands are popular among both vegetarians and those who eat meat. What are some of the most important factors in creating dishes that avoid the "veto vote"?

With the delicious, protein-rich options consumers want, our plant-forward choices offer new flavors and menu versatility that help expand menus and provide on-trend opportunities to operators. In fact, a recent study from Technomic found that more than two-thirds of away-from-home consumers say they enjoy MorningStar Farms products more than the competition. Consumers also want to add more veggies and bean/legume proteins to their diet, which are ingredients in our foods.

The plant-based protein category encompasses many ingredients, from peas and pulses to nuts and seeds. How does Kellogg choose ingredients in order to optimize flavor and nutrition in its plant-based products?

While trends in functional benefits and formats inform our R&D process, we know if it doesn’t taste great, no one will eat it. Our team has figured out how to perfectly combine flavor, format and function to make plant-based foods that match how today’s consumers eat. We know through consumer research and staying on top of global menu trends that consumers who are looking to increase plant-based proteins in their diet are looking for veggies and pulses, like lentils, soybeans and pinto beans, seeds and nuts as protein alternatives. In fact, away-from home consumers are most interested in these types of plant-based protein and is the more desired approach to reduce meat consumption.

Many of our MorningStar Farms products use non-GMO soy grown in the US and colors and flavors from natural sources. This helps meet the clean-label need that consumers are looking for and operators feel confident menuing.

How does Kellogg's Commercial & Custom division work with chefs and foodservice operators to help them put plant-based protein on the menu in a way that's designed to appeal to customers?

Our Culinary Institute of America-trained chefs and product development experts work together to create great tasting plant-based and veggie foods. We look at trends within the marketplace -- from the menu adoption curve to future food needs -- to create food that will meet operators’ menu needs. We live and breathe food and we know what a menu means to a restaurant or foodservice operation -- and we are dedicated to helping them find success with recipe development, promotional support and consumer insights that help drive sales.

In addition, with the right customer, we can work to develop turnkey customized menu solutions. We understand there are many differentiations within the market and we work with chain customers to create proprietary solutions that meet their specific menu needs.

How can global cuisine be a natural invitation for consumers to experience more plant-forward cuisine? How can these flavors encourage trial and repeat?

MorningStar Farms and Gardenburger brands are plant-proud -- and both of these brands offer simple expansion into on-trend, global cuisines. First and foremost, crave-ability is essential for plant-forward offerings. We start with identifying what consumers want, exploring the opportunities within the menu and bringing it to life to fit the needs of specific operators. Our portfolio offers back-of-house ease and with as little as one MorningStar Farms or Gardenburger SKU, you could create an array of meals from breakfast burritos to black bean quesadillas to Mediterranean flatbreads to loaded burgers and sandwiches.

As consumer demands continue to drive plant forward solutions, our portfolio will continue to grow to offer speed scratch solutions from the leading plant based and veggie brands.

Matt Perry is vice president of commercial and custom sales at Kellogg. The Commercial & Custom division is a key component of Kellogg’s growth strategy to drive accelerated growth for North America through brand ubiquity and channel expansion by bringing Kellogg brands to consumers wherever they are. With a focus on the top foodservice restaurant chains and consumer food manufacturers, the team partners with customers for branded menu and concept innovation utilizing Kellogg products and brands across meals, snacks, breakfast and dessert platforms.

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