In this episode, Forbes senior contributor, Alicia Kelso, sits down with Bloomberg’s Jennifer BartashusTGI Fridays’ Sara BittorfRival Technologies’ Andrew Reid and RMS’ Dora Furman to discuss plant-based meat alternatives and its growing demand in the restaurant industry.

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Alicia Kelso:
Hi everyone, welcome to the newest installment of the webinar series Revenue Stream with RMS. Today we’re gonna discuss the plant-based foods category. My name is Alicia Kelso, I am a Senior Contributor with Forbes.com where I cover the restaurant industry. Today I’m excited to be joined by four esteemed panelists including Jennifer Bartashus, she’s with Bloomberg. There she’s an analyst who focuses on consumer staples and retail and restaurants, hi Jen.

Jennifer Bartashus:
Hi Alicia, thanks so much for having me today.

Alicia Kelso:
We’ve got Sara Bittorf here. She’s the Chief Experience Officer at TGIF. She joined the brand last year and is tasked with revitalizing edge. Her insight today we’ll cover how Friday’s recently launched a new test menu which includes several plant-based items, hi Sara.

Sara Bittorf:
Hi, Alicia, great to be here.

Alicia Kelso:
Dora Forman, she’s Revenue Management Solutions Vice President, and as part of this job, she is tasked with overseeing many accounts that are responsible for our relationship, including TGIF. She’s gonna discuss survey insights of 800 U.S consumers and combine those industry trends and insights gained from existing client relationships. Hi, Dora

Dora Forman:
Thanks for including me today.

Alicia Kelso:
And finally, we’ve got Andrew Reid, he’s the Founder and CEO of the Mobile-First Market Research Platform, Rival Tech which presents a modern way of gathering consumer insights via SMS chats. Andrew is gonna discuss how brands can engage with millennials and gen Z, who are essentially the driving force behind the plant-based movement. Hi Andrew, good to see you.

Andrew Reid:
Hi Alicia, thanks for having me looking forward to the conversation.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay everybody, we’ve got a lot to cover here. This is a fun topic and I know we’re all looking forward to it. So let’s go ahead and dive right in. We are going through the most prolonged change to dining habits this country has ever seen obviously driven by, you know a global health crisis. So I’d like to start by getting your perspectives on how, if at all this change has affected the plant-based food category specifically. Jen, I’d like to start with you. Can you give us a high-level perspective on the plant-based category in terms of expanded products, expanded categories, anything you’re seeing along those lines?

Jennifer Bartashus:
Absolutely, so there’s really a very interesting dynamic happening with COVID-19 and we’ve seen a lot of plant-based meats shift into retail channels, mostly from restaurants. And so for a lot of people the first time they try a plant-based alternative is really in a restaurant because it’s less risky, it’s more affordable, there’s less confusion about how do I prepare it or what do I do with this stuff. And then it gives them a pathway to purchase and the retail setting, so once they have that experience, they can kind of incorporate it and think about where they wanna go. So with COVID, what we’ve seen is that the trend has really moved away from restaurants and into retail. And part of that, it’s just, it’s been more affordable for people to spend their money at grocery these days. They’re spending more on food preparation at home, and what started out in a category at retail that was really burgers and kind of nuggets is really expanding. And so what we’re seeing are meatballs, sausages, you know, different forms of those products that are easily accessible to the average cook. So it’s easy to take pre-made, plant-based meatballs and sub them in for me for real meatballs. And these products though as they’ve been developed to help consumers I think will also come into play at restaurants as the recovery starts to happen because they’re already kind of ready to go. And so that’s sort of the big picture trend that we’re seeing right now with regards to where those dynamics have been shifting.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, interesting. and Sara, what are you seeing specific to TGI Friday’s as it relates to these dietary shifts. Are you seeing increased demand and if so, has the concept sort of met those demands while navigating some other challenges that the pandemic has like, you know, decreased sales or traffic issues?

Sara Bittorf:
Yeah so, you know, before COVID we were one of the first brands in casual dine in to put up a plant-based for her substitute on the menu. I mean, other than, you know, like your veggie burger that’s been around for a long time, we put the beyond meat burger on and we did see increased demand for that so much so that we had some new products in the works to extend it to a chili product and nachos and other kinds of fun products. But I think what happened when the pandemic occurred is that the visits declined so much. I mean, recipe eating in a restaurant was almost not happening. And there was, you know obviously a shift to off premise that as Jen said, the not eating behavior moved to home. And so now restaurant visits are more special and you’re not gonna sort of take that risk of a plant-based product, when you’re craving that beef burger that you’ve been thinking about for a week. So, you know, when you make a decision to go to Friday’s, it’s automatically an indulgent decision. And I think people are forgoing those plant-based products during this time. And I do expect it to shift back once things open up a little bit.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, Andrew, is it safe to say that this is a generational thing? I mean, our younger generations driving this plant-based consumption demand, or is it cross demographic? What does your research say?

Andrew Reid:
Yeah, our research shows that Millennials and Gen Zs are real emotional purchase drivers. And so you obviously are having a segment of those that are, people that have maybe been vegans all their life. You have a lot of people also that are really trying to connect to some issues around, things like corporate responsibility to sustainability and as much as, you know, taste and the, you know, the food being able to mimic the meat-based products. We’re finding that people really are thinking about sustainability factors, thinking about how they can connect to larger issues. And so there’s definitely a shift we’re seeing that’s quite significant with this younger generation. It’s still really early days but it’s gonna be interesting to see, you know I think how this carries out over the next few years.

Alicia Kelso:
Yeah no doubt, that is really interesting. So and Dora, I wanna transition to you ’cause I know that you also swim in these metrics and RMS is, you know, consumer insights has, you know, they have an abundance of information here. What are you seeing based on that data about plant-based in terms of increased trial or frequency, can you tell us your thoughts as to what’s going on over there?

Dora Forman:
Yeah, so we conducted two surveys, as you mentioned you know, 800 consumers and we conducted it twice. So back in January and comparing it to August. So what we’re seeing through the pandemic that that trial has increased. So it was at 23% back in January, now it’s up to 30%. So that trial is there, but what we found in very in line with kind of the numbers and data that Sara’s speaking to in Fridays at that frequency has declined. So where in that survey in January, someone might respond and say they were eating plant-based a couple of times a week. It might have now shifted to a once a week or once a month. And I think that really kind of goes back to overall restaurant frequency has declined and when you’re making that choice to dine out during COVID or order food, you’re probably leaning into kind of those tried and trued items and those indulgent items that you’re looking for. Overall, you know, when looking at client data, everyone’s kinda jumped on the wagon, you know they all have plant-based items are testing them and trying them and the initial kind of launch and media focus definitely drive some people in. But once you kind of come off media, there is that bit of a fall off in that mix of those products which is around 2 to 3% from what we see in our clients depending on what they’re offering. And so, you know, obviously like question is why is that mix so low? And I think price is ultimately what we’re seeing is a big, you know, it was one of the big hurdles. The products are expensive for our clients. There are definitely trades as much as it might be, okay, people are willing to pay premium because they are passionate about the environment but how much of a premium. And then we have the whole world of flexitarians or not vegans where they’re really have no other choice. It’s really, I’m eating meat but maybe I wanna do better for the earth or eat a little healthier. And so if it’s a 2, 3, $4 premium, you know there’s that balance. And so, you know, we did find in our survey that 54% of consumers define it, you know, a bit expensive, but 40% of the respondents said they would be willing to try it if it was more affordable. So I think, you know, looking at pricing and price parity there’ll be more trial, but I think some of that trial is a little bit hindered right now from the restaurant space versus retail just because of that dining frequency being down. So kind of going back to Sara’s comment that as people continue to dine out I think we’ll continue to see kind of an uptick in the mix.

Alicia Kelso:
So in your opinion, then if we could move sort of keep that in mind but moving to another topic, is there staying power here? What does the decrease in frequency hinder the potential for staying power in this category or do we need more innovation and availability? And Jen, what are your thoughts on that?

Jennifer Bartashus:
It’s a great point and play a little bit of what Dora was just talking about that innovation is really important in this category because it’s still a young category and there’s just so many directions it can go. The consumer today is just gonna continue to look for new things. That’s sort of just the nature of where we are as people at this point, people went to different flavors, different textures, different interesting things to try. So I think the innovation is gonna be pivotal in that staying power of the plant-based movement. Limited trips to restaurants, you know, they’re still pushing people to the familiar you know, as Sara was saying that is gonna change though. You know, as things reopen and things get back to normal people will get back more into experimentation and expanding their horizons when it comes to food. And we’re seeing interesting things happen. So, you know, recently there was a joint venture announced between PepsiCo and Beyond Meat. And that just shows that there’s a lot of potential for brands to take that plant-based alternatives into completely new categories. And that’s part of what I think will also help give the movement long legs in terms of, you know, where we’re going. And then back to a door was saying price really is important. It’s starting to slowly come down. We’re seeing that at retail and, you know, volume is really the answer there. So the higher the volumes, the more price, you know the more prices come down, the more affordable things are, there’s still a pretty big price percentage between replacement products and actual proteins. But the data that we’re looking at shows that when that price gap shrinks to say 10% above the traditional protein, sales rise. So there’s a clear threshold for consumers to where that point is that they’re willing to pay up for this product. And so higher volumes innovation will help to close that gap. And then as pricing becomes more equal I think you’ll see real acceleration in the sector.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay great, Sara does that apply to TGIF specifically, in your opinion just trying to get those innovations churned out or price parity, what are you doing for your brand in an effort to maintain some longevity here?

Sara Bittorf:
So just to piggyback on what Jen was saying I did see a data point recently that said that basically three out of four people we’re looking forward to more product innovation after the pandemic has kind of waned. And so I do think that while people are definitely going for the kind of tried and true right now they’re sort of hungry for this. There’s gonna be a pent up demand for some innovation and I think plant-based foods can play in that, you know, in that area. For us, the one, you know it’s always going to come down to taste. We, especially at TGI Friday’s nobody that’s coming to Friday’s is expecting to trade off taste for healthy, right? When you go to Fridays, you’re going for that, you know, fun food, that indulgent experience. And so for, you know to just as a baseline, it has to taste good. The other thing Jen mentioned and Dora mentioned is price, right? If I’m going to participate in this event you can’t gouge me for it. You know, I have to feel good about what I’m paying. And I think that, you know, I can save from Friday’s perspective we’ve had a little bit of an issue with that, especially with some of the products that we have been testing. One of them was nachos, one of them was potato skins. When you’re looking at the option of a potato skin with Beyond Meat Chili and the regular potato skins on the menu if there’s a significant price premium plus the risk of am I really going to like this? Is it gonna be as satisfying as the potato skins I know and love? Then you start to put up real barriers for people. So I do think that we, you know the industry has to deal with those two things. But I also think that there’s going to be a, you know a tipping point where everybody’s just gonna have to carry it. And at that point when the volume is there, you know, it will become mainstream. And, you know, it’s kind of like Starbucks that, you know, five years ago, it was hard to get almond milk. Now, you can get it anywhere. And that same thing I think is gonna apply to this category.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, great point with the almond milk and Starbucks, I appreciate that insight. Andrew, we’ve talked about innovation and the necessity to price pair to be, based on your research how important is it to get, you know, in front of these consumers as it applies to social purpose, I know you and I have had a conversation about this in the past, I know it’s a big deal for the younger consumers, you know that you tend to research. So how much does that come into play here for the longevity piece?

Andrew Reid:
Yeah, I don’t think this is, I think you people do a lot of research and we’ve conducted a lot of research around, you know, kind of trendsetters, people that are young, people that have, you know, even diverse heritage or backgrounds, and we’re finding that some of those groups are chronically underrepresented in research. This is something that I think is really here to stay. And the parallel I was drawn when thinking about this is is a brand like Tesla. When you think about, you know why are people buying electric cars? They’re buying electric cars because this is a really cool car that’s got a bunch of technology in it. They buy it because it’s gonna have a really great impact on the environment. You know, if you flip over to plant-based products I think it’s very similar in the fact that you have some people that are doing this because specifically around their diet, you have some people that are doing this because of social purpose, like animal cruelty, or, you know I saw a report the other day that said something like there’s over 600 liters of water needed to create a burger. And so for some people are gonna play on, you know more environmental impact issue. So I think we’re gonna see this continue to grow, again like I said before, it’s early days. So this is from the research, we’re seeing not a fad, something that’s here to stay and we’re gonna see it continue to climb in the years to come.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, and Dora, I do wanna kind of go back a little bit, ’cause we did talk about some of those innovation pieces with Jen and Sara. What is most important here to keep up with the current pace of trial? Is it that innovation, I mean, we’ve seen that, you know I think Sara mentioned it earlier. We saw it with plant-based burgers and then that moved into plant-based sausage and we’ve seen plant-based chicken. What is gonna help with that trial piece here?

Dora Forman:
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a hard place as far as our brands when they’re innovating with the plant base right now because they’re making choices as far as their media dollars and what’s gonna drive most bang for their box. So I think innovation is important. And I think it’s definitely important to have those products on the menu and kind of going back to Andrew’s point about kind of the generational we know Gen Z, 90% are passionate of, you know, for the sustainability and the environment and Gen Z can influence the parents’ decision of where we’re gonna dine and we’re, you know and make that restaurant decision. And so that’s gonna continue to grow. So I think innovation is important, but executives like Sara have to make decision on you know, launching those products and what it’s gonna do to drive overall profitability for the store. So making sure that the cost is there. I think that’s number one, we’re not seeing as ton of incrementality when you launch it but there is a segment that’s coming in and we’ve tested it and seen that it is driving an incremental occasion. And this is obviously pre COVID but it’s how do you drive enough to then say, you know a TGI Fridays, instead of promoting their raves you know, there’s so many people that buy the raves. Am I gonna spend those dollars on something that might bring in 1% versus maybe bringing in 5% that are coming in for raves. So there’s always that balance. And so I think some of the staying part power is definitely you know, getting the prices, right, communicating the sustainability part, as far as the environment and maybe taking a different angle on the message, co-branding the products, co-messaging with other products. So going back to Fridays with the potato skins that’s one of their top sellers, you know, so is it we’ve got potato skins but we’ve got the plant-based as well. So then you can still really draw on a fuller population and get the bang for the buck for the media dollar. So I think it’s gonna be a little bit of creative marketing to keep it around and then obviously working on the cost making sure it’s makes sense to the restaurants to invest in those products to encourage the trade-in.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, so we talk about that, the longevity piece here but it’s also important to talk about the trial piece ’cause there’s a huge segment of people who get to try it even though we’ve talked about the growth there. So Jen, something you mentioned earlier really kind of stuck out to me, and that is the staggering growth of sales in the retail and grocery space. I’m curious to know if that has led to more comfort, more familiarity with some of these products and if that is going to bode well for a more trial at restaurants, in your opinion.

Jennifer Bartashus:
Yeah, we’re seeing a really interesting kind of circular effect take place where a lot of initial trial came from restaurants and then demand shifted to grocery. And now what we’re seeing in monthly point of sale data from the retail side is that repurchase rates are starting to rise. And that really gives this movement a lot of longevity because it’s one thing to try it but it’s another thing when people continue to repurchase it. And so we’ll be watching the frequency that people are repurchasing it, but the increased familiarity and the more it’s part of people’s actual routine, the more likely they are and I think to then extend that out when they go back to restaurants as well, you know, once they get over that pent-up demand that Sara was talking about, it come about comfort food and getting back into things, you know, when things start to kind of rebalance I think that will help restaurants longterm. And in, you know, in April and May, when the meat processing plants closed because of COVID issues it may protein much, there was a big spike in prices for meat products. And plant-based alternatives really had a moment to shine with consumers, because all of a sudden that price gap evaporated and there was availability in stores. And where their products were placed in stores are easier for people to see, they’re in fresh cases now as opposed to often a separate section. And so this is helping to feed that repeat purchase rate as well. So that big bump, just because of that industry closure event is actually really good for this industry. And it could mean that long-term, that the marketing money, you know, it becomes a little less important because people are already more familiar with the products. And so going forward that should hopefully translate out to be a benefit for restaurants as well.

Alicia Kelso:
Yeah, no doubt. So I wanna take a different angle because of your unique perspective with the brands. What is the potential here as it applies to a veto vote for your customers like having a product like this on your menu?

Sara Bittorf:
Well, we at Friday’s, we talk about being a place for people of all stripes and that’s really about welcoming, you know, everybody. And, so we, you know, when we introduced beyond me, and when we’re looking at these options of Beyond Chili, nachos, and potato skins it’s really there to provide a choice for people. And we think that that’s an important part of this. So, in answering your question, yes, we think you could potentially be a big thing to address the veto vote. I also think that there’s something to the frequency story that Jen was telling. And that is that, you know, if you think about it how often can you though to Fridays and eat a big beef burger, not that often, right. But could you add a Beyond Meat product to your repertoire and then visit twice as often. And that’s part of I think the equation that needs to happen in order for these products to be embraced by the restaurant industry. They have to add some level of incrementality instead of just trading either incrementality in creating a new audience, attracting a new audience or incrementality in increasing the frequency of which you can visit a certain restaurant.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, and Dora kind of along those lines are you seeing anything with RMS’s research that shows, you know, any sort of consumer preference toward brands that offer plant-based products?

Dora Forman:
Yeah, so going back to our survey we did find that there are a number of households that would choose one brand over the other if there’s a plant base offering. And one thing that’s interesting is that it was two out of five family households would actually go towards a brand that has plant base whereas with one out of four, you know, in a single, you know, single family household. So I think it’s an interesting ’cause it kind of goes back to the Gen Z comment, right, that you’re seeing kind of potentially a higher number of likelihood to go to brand kind of going back to that veto vote, you know, providing food for all stripes of people, ages and such. So I think that having those items on their menu are critical. And especially when you kind of think of that family unit where you have different eating behavior among all generations within that family.

Alicia Kelso:
All right Andrew, with that in mind, you know, I recently read a story that interested me as it applies to your research, that younger consumers are more comfortable returning to dine-in and therefore sort of leading this recovery in the industry. And I’m curious to know your perspective based on your research about whether or not this bodes well for the plant-based category specifically.

Andrew Reid:
Yeah, we’re seeing the same thing. So this definitely the younger generations are playing this role with returning. And I think also with changing the role of dine in and how dine in, and really driving a big shift and plant-based is part of this, you know, Sara’s comments about Fridays being a place for all stripes fits exactly into that new composition you’re seeing with younger people dining together where you’ve got people that have, you know, maybe you have a table of four with very different eating habits and how can you find a place that can actually accommodate all those different eating styles? I also love the comments about, you know, trial, you know do you need to go straight to some main to be able to experiment with plant-based or are there ways that you can have amuse-bouche so to speak and have that experience. So I think we’re seeing that, you know and what we’re forecasting is after the pandemic we’re gonna see something that’s very new and really helps to transform both the way that consumers dine in and this idea of sustainability and how do you cross over sustainability with that table of four people and some of the emotional connections they have and to these new plant-based products.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, great, and I wanna talk capital here because the category is still relatively new obviously we’ve seen a lot of activity in the space and, you know, that has obviously led to adoption rates going up, but I wanna know what your thoughts are on capital investments moving forward as we look at the environment that we’re in now. Are we gonna see new entrance in this space? Are we gonna continue to see, you know, people that these companies sort of money aggressively at marketing efforts, Jen what’s your opinion on capital activity here?

Jennifer Bartashus:
Yeah well, entrepreneurs chase growth. And so when people see the types of growth that some of the companies in the industry are posting it entices interest. And when we’re looking at plant-based sales you’re likely to see the number of entrance and investors behind those entrance continue to rise. In 2020, we saw almost a billion dollars of investment behind companies in the plant-based space. And we think that that’s only gonna continue to grow as it becomes more and more interesting to people. And the other thing is that if you have another IPO that is successful, you know, Beyond Meat really woke everybody up to the industry, at least on the on the capital allocation corporate side of things, right. And so you have a lot of companies aspiring to follow that path of success. So for example, you know, it’s been speculated for a while that just with their replacement egg products and other other product lines, maybe interested in pursuing an IPO as well. So as you start to see that kind of success you see even more entrance into the space, which just feels innovation and then availability and all the things that we were talking about before.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, and Dora, if we see that, obviously my assumption is that bodes well for the price parody piece but in your opinion, are we gonna see that continued marketing investment sustained as well?

Dora Forman:
Yeah definitely, I mean, I think restaurants will continue to jump into that because they’re kind of riding that wave of, you know the overarching kind of the retail marketing and out there and the awareness. And so I think we’ll continue to see that, but, you know as mentioned earlier, there’s gonna have to be that decision, you know, from a marketing perspective and obviously in the middle of the COVID right now when marketing dollars are a tight, not as much, I think as far as kind of rolling dice on that platform, you know kind of in 2021, but as we get into 2022 in recovery, I think there will be brands that will wanna jump on that and see how, you know, test the waters from incrementality. Digital is a really safe place to go. You know, obviously not as expensive as TV, PR you know, and I think that becomes the opportunity. Is how do you use PR, get some free media out of initiatives? And so I think it’s gonna go back to that creativity from a restaurant’s perspective to drive that in, you know drive that external traffic in the doors and doing that would be things like that digital and the social and the, you know, co-branding as I mentioned earlier is there that opportunity where you bring a bunch of brands together with beyond and say, hey you’ve got beyond it all, you know, at all 10 brands and we’re in it together, we’re in it for the environment. So I think there’s gonna be some creativity that continues to drive that.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, Sara that sounds like quite a challenge balancing, you know, all those marketing approaches with, you know, investment in the product in general, you know as you’re trying to navigate a crisis. Can you provide any color on what your brand is doing you know, to sort of balance this investment piece in the plant-based category?

Sara Bittorf:
Sure, so one of the interesting things that happen as a result of the pandemic is that restaurant menus we’re able to simplify. And in fact, they, you know, in a lot of cases they have to simplify because you just didn’t have that many people running the restaurant anymore. And so there there’s been a desire I’ll say on at least on Fridays. And I’m gonna say on behalf of the industry and total to be able to take certain items off of the menu for a really long time, but it’s very difficult to do because you get, you know, this emotional response from people who say, where did my item go. But during the pandemic we had that permission. And so we’ve been able to streamline the menu. What that means is in order to add things to it they’re really gonna have to earn their keep. And so we’re gonna have to get to that point where, you know I don’t think it’s ever gonna be, I’ll call it mainstream, but you know a huge part of the mix but it does need to justify the expense of many listing it, carrying it as a skew, thawing it, prepping it, you know whatever is involved in it. Those products are going to have to earn their way onto the menu. And they’re still very niche. So in terms of supporting from a marketing standpoint, you know, well there’s only a handful of players out there who can afford to put this on broadcast television. It’s going to continue, I think for a little while to be a niche item that satisfies a small group of people but if it does it well, you know, and profitably, then it has a place for us.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, and then Andrew, where will brands in your opinion get the most bang for their buck, and dollar throughout a number of marketing channels that they have to contend for now including the co-branding piece, the digital piece you know, if that is the best audience to capture here off the get go, what is your opinion on where those investment dollars should go, what do they care about?

Andrew Reid:
Yeah, I think it’s definitely not gonna be an easy task. And the fact that you have to do innovation on both sides if their innovation has to happen at the menu level of the food level, at the same time on the messaging and in the marketing and targeting side and this is gonna be about really targeting to youth these niche markets, you know, Dora’s ideas about going to digital, make a lot of sense. I mean, it’s amazing. I saw an article the other day that Honda just launched a a new car on Twitch. So they’re going to very different trying to really target and go to exactly where that segment is, where they’re spending time, it’d be marketing to them there. I think that’s where you’re gonna see the most bang for your bucket and to Sara’s comment, you know, I think that constant marketing and willingness to stay with the customer continue that dialogue and stay with them. You’re gonna start to see that transform in a really interesting way. I’m not gonna say necessarily that you watch the ability of some of these generational, or these younger generations to really drive markets in a significant way when they feel they’re being heard and they’re being understood. So that linkage is just gonna be massively important going forward.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay great, I’m gonna ask all of you to whip out your crystal balls now, this has been, you know, there’s a lot of information here to digest and from what it sounds like, all of you still believe that we’re very firmly on the ground floor here. So I’m interested to know, you know, your takes, your unique perspectives here on your predictions for a plant-based product and category growth, you know both in the near term and maybe extensive of extended beyond 2021. Jen, we’ll start with you.

Jennifer Bartashus:
Yeah, so, you know, we’re very optimistic about the longterm growth of plant-based food and we just see huge opportunity in the market and that we’re gonna see more competitors come in, more innovation ongoing and it’s just gonna create this virtuous cycle of experimentation, adoption and integration into everyone’s lives. For 2021, I think there is potential for another successful IPO. As I mentioned, that is gonna drive money into the sector. It’ll probably help with the price points. The one thing that we haven’t touched much on that we also see as a short-term big opportunity are blended products. And we see an opportunity here for brands that aren’t a hundred percent sure they wanna move fully into the plant-based space to put a toe in the water and use blended products. So a burger that is half beef, half mushroom, things that are still approachable for the consumer, but you’re not fully going into that plant based commitment that, you know some of the challenges with that, that Sara and Dora have both touched on. And so we think that there’s big opportunity there to see some more of that happening in 2021 and altogether when you think about, you know, the, you know, from a sales perspective, you know, we’re forecasting that we could see plant-based meat alternative sales, past $2 billion in 2021. So we’re pretty optimistic about this sector and where we’re headed.

Alicia Kelso:
Awesome, all right and Sara, what about you, what are your predictions for the category for this year and if you may beyond?

Sara Bittorf:
So I’m gonna take some inspiration from my son who is a vegan, and say that I’m gonna predict that there could be a bifurcation that occurs where, you know, we’ve been talking about plant-based in terms of meat substitutes and I really like what Jen said about, you know like the half beef, half mushroom, because I do think that there’s gonna be a lane where people are gonna say, I wanna help the environment but I like what I like and so I’m looking for substitutes for that, but I also think that down the plant-based route, there’s also another lane and that’s vegetables, and legumes, and you know, things like that, that are a little bit more natural. You know, we haven’t really talked about how there is some concern among some people about what’s actually in those meat substitute things. And so I do think that there’s some ripe opportunity in that direction.

Alicia Kelso:
Okay, Andrew, what are your thoughts on the category and your predictions?

Andrew Reid:
So this is definitely a longer-term thing, brands and restaurants that make plant-based alternatives part of their strategy long-term are gonna win. I think this comes down to things like, you know, how do you deal with in the restaurant trial, targeted messaging, this commitment to these younger segments, and to continue to stick with them and to make sure you’re talking to them on their terms in their way. And even just as seeing. Sara talk to thinking about transparency, are there ways that we can be really transparent about, you know, what is in these products and where these come from and some of the positive impacts that they are having to continue with those connections. So it’s gonna be an interesting time to see how this evolves, but this is definitely, I think part of a bigger movement and that may not just be about just meat products but in general, about how we’re transforming the restaurant industry.

Alicia Kelso:
All right interesting times, indeed. Dora, that sounds you. What are your predictions here?

Dora Forman:
Yeah, I think everyone has brought up some really good points. And I think, you know, speaking to those other plant-based menu items is really key. I think there’s no question like people are really passionate about the environment, they’re going to want to move towards those products. They’re gonna think about their health. So, you know, 2021 I think its gonna be telling, I think it’s not gonna move a lot in 2021, just give into the trial and the dine-in occasion. But as we, you know, emerge out of the pandemic I think we’re gonna continue to see that growth that people are gonna move to those plant-based items. And, you know, it is about that messaging about it’s better for the environment, you know, and restaurants are gonna have options to talk about packaging, talk about the message. So I think there’s a lot of growth, that we’re gonna start seeing in 2022 and beyond.

Alicia Kelso:
All right, everybody, thank you so much. I’ve loved this conversation. This is obviously a very important topic. I think all of us could probably talk about it all day and I’m sure we have plenty to follow up on and both in the near term and long term. So in the meantime, to stay up to date with Revenue Stream and all of RMSs research, visit revenuemanage.com or follow the company on social media. They’ve got an active LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter account. Thanks so much for joining us today, I appreciate it.

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