Opportunities for Sustainability


Consumers Care about Sustainability​

According to Datassential’s Sustainability Keynote Report (August 2022), over half of consumers (57%) say sustainability influences their food choices at restaurants. Sustainability can take on many forms on menus. Labels like “sustainable” are a clear indicator, but “seasonal” can also indicate sustainability, since 4 in 10 consumers seek out in-season foods in an effort to be sustainable (Datassential’s Global Flavors Keynote Report, August 2022). Plant-based options are another form of sustainability on menus. Read on for sustainable menu inspiration, a dive into plant-based opportunities, and insights into sustainability and price.​

Nearly half of consumers would prefer to be informed about sustainability at foodservice through notes on menus, followed by on-premise signage with 41% of consumers wanting this (Datassential Sustainability Keynote Report, August 2022). Consider adding callouts to menus or restaurant signs to help connect with sustainability-minded consumers. After all, 38% of operators make sustainability efforts but don’t promote them – a lost opportunity to engage consumers!*

Sustainably-sourced fillets can elevate a classic fish & chips dish. Think about current menu items – are they sustainably sourced? Do they incorporate seasonal ingredients? Are they inherently plant-based? Capitalize on sustainability efforts that are already part of the menu and highlight those for your customers, like in the chain introduction to the right.

Sustainability Skews Younger

Sustainable choices are important to well over half of consumers, but for Gen Z, this increases to 7 in 10 consumers. For operators targeting Gen Z (and Millennials, too), sustainability could be a differentiating factor to draw in these younger consumer groups.

*Datassential Sustainability Keynote, Aug 2022

Datassential SCORES, March 2022

 top performer for item type (>90th percentile)

Plant-Based by Numbers

Nearly 1 in 3 consumers eat more "plant-based" foods to be sustainable. While extreme menu growth of the term plant-based tends to be driven by meat alternatives, consumers are split on whether plant-based whole foods or meat substitutes are the more sustainable option. When designing plant-based options for the menu, don’t forget those veggie-forward dishes that consumers are (slightly) more likely to view as sustainable options. Consider dishes like a hearty Southwest potato bowl with peppers, pinto beans, and salsa, or kimchi loaded fries (incorporating loaded fry and global trends, too).

Datassential Sustainability Keynote, Aug 2022

Datassential Sustainability Keynote, Aug 2022

Datassential MenuTrends YE Dec 2022

Datassential Plant-Based Keynote, Dec 2022

What is Plant-Based?

Plant-based discussion tends to revolve around meat alternatives, but what are consumers actually eating in terms of plant-based fare? It’s no surprise that salads are a top dish, but notice in the chart to the left that plant-based apps & sides and even bowls have higher consumption than plant-based burgers and sausages. Fries can serve as both a plant-based app or side dish and are also the top accompaniment for both plant-based and veggie burgers, showcasing the versatility of fries in the plant-based space.

Datassential Plant-Based Keynote, Dec 2022​

4-year menu penetration growth on menus featuring fries (either as a side or a la carte), Datassential MenuTrends YE Dec 2022​

The price of sustainability is a concern for consumers and operators alike.

Operators should consider both revenue-driving and low-cost opportunities to incorporate sustainability initiatives, like the below:

  • Charging a premium for plant-based burgers can offset costs, and the chart to the right showcases how even QSR tends to price plant-based burgers higher.
  • Engaging consumers through sustainability can drive additional traffic, and a quarter of consumers are willing to pay more.
  • Menu labels calling out plant-based offerings can be a way to highlight sustainability without breaking the bank.
  • Implementing green energy initiatives can save money - make sure to communicate these to customers, too!

Median price among burger items, Datassential MenuTrends YE Dec 2022