Retail Foodservice

Plant-Forward Soups Meet Needs of Today’s Consumers

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As consumers add more and more plant-based foods to their diets, soups can play an important role for restaurant operators seeking to cater to the dietary interests of these customers.

In fact, a little more than a quarter of consumers say that one of the reasons they order or buy soup is because they are trying to eat healthfully, according to Technomic’s 2018 Soup and Salad report.

Of particular interest are plant-based proteins, as consumers look to reduce their consumption of certain meats. Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report finds that 59% of consumers eat a meatless meal at least once a week.

Soups, which can be easily made vegan or vegetarian, offer an ideal vehicle for increasing the consumption of plant-based nutrients. In addition, soups often have protein-rich ingredients such as beans or legumes.

While many consumers follow plant-forward diets for health reasons, they also often do so because of their concerns about animal welfare or about the impact that raising livestock has on the environment.

The 2018 Menus of Change Annual Report from the Culinary Institute of America and the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health cites the extensive benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

“New studies add to existing evidence that shifts in eating habits toward more plant-based proteins, fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, greenhouse gas emissions, and the burden on water and energy resources,” the report states.

Following are some tips for optimizing the potential of soups as part of a menu that appeals to consumers interested in a plant-forward diet.

  • Emphasize the flavor qualities of the dish. Calling out the flavors of a menu item can help increase a dish’s appeal among all consumers, beyond those specifically seeking plant-based options.
  • Enhance the appeal of the soup with appropriate complementary items, such as whole-grain crackers or breads, or consider offering vegan cheese as a topping for a vegan chili.
  • Make plant-based ingredients the stars of the dish. According to the 2018 Menus of Change Annual Report, chefs should describe their dishes more holistically to highlight the plant-based ingredients rather than focusing on the meat-based proteins.
  • Call out the environmental benefits of the ingredients. If a dish includes locally sourced vegetables, or other ingredients that are sustainably produced, those should be highlighted in product descriptions.

Plant-forward soups can include the classics like vegetable minestrone and tomato bisque, but can also include new and unique options like sweet potato and corn chowder, spinach and feta chowder and roasted red pepper and smoked gouda bisque. For diners who are interested in plant-based options, these soups fit the bill and are delicious, to boot.

This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods