Three protein trends being tapped for successful product development

As more consumers turn to functional eating as part of their lifestyles, consumer packaged-good developers and foodservice operators have been keen to tap their insatiable lust for proteins. Poultry has been one of the most flexible proteins to work with and a new awareness of Asian Island foods, a trend identified by Chicago-based consultancy Technomic. It has propelled Asian Island chicken on menus.

At the same time, consumers are looking for protein alternatives to meat and are driving an interest in the creation of more food products and menu items that tap the nutrition and appeal of pulses and plant-based proteins.

Asian Island Chicken

Asian Island cuisine embodies the current trajectory of a trend that has legs, according to foodservice consultancy Technomic, inc.(Restaurant Business), including Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean cooking and flavors. The world might be our oyster, but the island nations of Southeast and Eastern Asia are, more specifically, the source of today’s popular delicacies. Many top independent and chain restaurants are drawing from Southeast Asian influence to add excitement to their menus.

Experts like consultancy Baum+Whiteman cite spicy Korean, Filipino adobo, and Javanese curry chicken as examples of what may soon be permanent options across international and Pan-Asian restaurants in the U.S. due to their growing popularity. Hainanese chicken rice with laska and indulgent chicken from the Izakaya (chicken karaage and chicken teba: Japan) are also trend manifestations that are expected to rise in notoriety and visibility.



Pulses are gaining attention because of the density of protein and nutrition found in these foods. After all, 2016 was the “Year of the Pulse” per a U.N. designation. Because pulses are free of soy, dairy and gluten, they are carefully adopted in food products at the manufacturing level, notes a 2017 Food Business News article, Pulses include chickpeas, lentils, beans and peas, and their popularity isn’t just found in food products. You’ll notice increases at quick-service and sit-down restaurants.

A winter seasonal salad at True Food Kitchen comprises brussels sprout, butternut squash, cauliflower, white bean, pomegranate, toasted mulberry, and horseradish
vinaigrette. The hearty Dakota Smashed Pea & Barley soup at California Pizza Kitchen is a warm mix of barley, carrots, onions, savory herbs and scallions. Expect restaurateurs to find more ways to incorporate pulses in future food menu development.

Plant-based proteins

Plant-based proteins are part of one of the fastest-moving trends: As vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles increase for a variety of reasons, restaurants and foodservice companies are responding to these consumers’ needs. According to the International Food & Industry Council, more than 70 percent of consumers consider a diet of plant-based proteins healthier. Baum+Whiteman cited plant-based proteins as a top trend for 2018. The consultancy says, “83 percent of U.S. consumers are adding plant-based foods to their diets to improve health and nutrition, while 62 percent do so for weight management.” Vegetarian dishes can now be hefty: At Arroz (restaurant) in D.C., the Winter Vegetables Bomba Rice is a robust medley of rice, foraged mushrooms, smoked cauliflower, farm egg, and pimenton aioli, packing good protein.


Meatless proteins, including burgers that emulate the texture and appearance of real meat, are on the rise. Restaurant chains, for example, are increasingly turning to manufacturers, like Beyond Meat, for their meatless burgers that use beet juice to “bleed.”

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