Award-winning plant-based cheese brand, Violife, spearheaded a panel discussion on a very topical theme at the Fast Food & Café Convention, which took place on 23rd November 2021 at the Conrad, Dubai. The topic of the panel was ‘Creating Profitable Restaurants with Sustainable Menus’, which covered the vegan and plant-based movement that has been picking up steam in the industry.
Fast Food industry can promote sustainable practices by championing plant-based foods on their menus.
Violife, owned by Upfield, the global leader in plant-based foods, delivered an important message on how the Fast Food industry can promote sustainable practices in the region by championing plant-based foods on their menus. The conversation also highlighted the growing demand for vegan, vegetarian, plant-based and flexitarian diets and the business opportunity of this trend.
The panel moderator, John Rogers, Group Head of Food & Culinary, Eathos, put forth very interesting questions to the panelists. On being asked about the change in customer demand, Rania Lahori, Co-Founder, Pret To Go, went on to explain how, now customers are making more conscientious decisions than in the past and the two major factors that play a role in customers shifting to a vegan or plant based diet are the depth of knowledge and the communication of the product.
Ghalia Alul, Founder, Little Erth by Nabz & G, went on to add how they are keen on promoting health food as opposed to promoting veganism and how the whole education and communication around it plays a very important role. The discerning customer is very demanding of quality and that pushes them at Little Erth to innovate and create more menu options.
The third panellist, Reinier Weerman, General Manager MENA, Upfield, shared some insightful data on the exponential growth of the market for vegan and plant-based food in the region. This includes the fact that about 45% of consumers in the UAE have replaced dairy for a plant-based meal or drink in the past year, and two in five respondents opted for allergen-free dishes when eating out or ordering food in the same period. This trend pretends a huge opportunity for the industry.
The panelists also discussed the various new ingredients that have become available now, for those who want to embrace this lifestyle, right from Tempeh to Aqua Kale, which has opened up a lot more options on the menu. The need to strike a balance between making sure that the operation is profitable while maintaining sustainable menus was also discussed at length.
At the end of the Violife hosted panel, the general agreement was that Fast Food Cafes that embrace the plant-based trend have the opportunity to cater to and profit from a new audience who are making the switch to vegan, vegetarian and plant-based diets due to their health and environmental benefits.
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