Veggie Protein Heroes

Flexitarianism is on the up, with more people adopting the sentiment: friends, not food! For flexis, there’s the desire to slowly reduce the amount of animal product going into their dishes, with the need to find menus with minimal amounts of meat and fish.


For more established vegan/vegetarians, the desire for highly indulgent dishes is a thing of the past, with people seeking new culinary experiences that revolve
around plant-powered protein such as beans, pulses and vegetables. They want flavorsome and healthy dishes, without the highly indulgent dishes. It’s about broadening our horizons to celebrate plant power in the most interesting ways.

Plant-Powered Protein
Plant-Powered Protein


Words by

Lauren Kemp

Flexitarians Have It All

Back in the day, vegetarians going out to eat were served stuffed mushroom to start with and penne all’arrabbiata for their main. They could try and make up a meal out of sides, but it was frowned upon. They must accept their lot and look forward to dessert where they could eat like the rest. Vegans were simply not invited.

“The flexi method means that nothing is strictly off limits”

35% of French households are reducing their meat consumption

No more! That’s thanks to plant-forward menus, vegan, and vegetarian options. The rise of the flexitarian has turned these sorry dinner tables all the way around, and rightly so!


Flexitarian is defined as ‘a primarily vegetarian diet with occasional meat or fish’. The flexi method means that nothing is strictly off limits, so diners are free to choose based on their own needs and preferences, be they
physical, financial, or environmental.


Flexi’s principles are largely contained within the term ‘conscious gastronomy’, which reflects all the things modern diners love – seasonal, organic, local, low-waste and low-carbon offerings that are cheaper both to create and to order.


Researchers from the University of Westminster have found that “meat eaters are significantly more likely to choose vegetarian meals when they make up the majority of food offered. A menu had to be at least 75% vegetarian for this choice tipping point to occur.”


Vegetarian and vegan options have a much larger profit margin than meat-based dishes. It’s no surprise that chefs across the globe are now extolling the virtues of vegetables and sharing exponentially more fabulous ways to center veg-centric dishes.


Sana Minhas, Nutritionist

Written by
Ryan Cahill

The growing movement toward embracing plantforward sources not only reduces our reliance on animal agriculture but also offers numerous health benefits. Below, Sana Minhas suggests four nutritious plant based ingredients to help the wellbeing of people and the planet.


  1. Beans and Pulses
    These versatile members of the legume family boast a surprising superpower: they can convert nitrogen from the air and ‘fix’ it into a form that can be readily used by plants. Beans and pulses are also a rich source of fibre, protein and B vitamins.
  2. Whole Grains
    Whole grains and cereals have been a key source of food for humans for the longest of times. Diversifying carbohydrate sources beyond the basic white rice, maize and wheat is essential for not only making our menus more exciting and unique, they also provide more nutritional value and improve soil health. Think about millet, buckwheat, wild rice, quinoa – these wholegrains take your dishes to the next level and help your diners eat more wholesomely.
  3. Leafy Greens
    Leafy greens are the most versatile and nutritious of all types of vegetables. They contain dietary fiber and hence are good for your gut and are packed with lots of vitamins and minerals, low in calories, and provide many health benefits.
  4. Nuts and Seeds
    As well as being high in protein, healthy fats, and vitamin E, the desirable flavor and crunchy texture of these little powerhouses makes them a great addition to almost every dish.
“Chefs have a big part to play in providing solutions to the environmental and ethical concerns raised by traditional food systems.”

Humans have discovered 200.000 edible plants, but we only consume 150-200 on a regular basis, which is less than 1%.


Flavor Shock
1. Google Keyword Planner, Mar 2018-Feb 2022

Local Abundance
2. Q4443 Trendsetter March 2022, UFS e-panel plus d-hoc, 19 countries, Base n=1,303

Low-Waste Menus
3. 4. Q4443 Trendsetter March 2022, UFS e-panel plus ad-hoc, 19 countries, Base n=1,303

Modernized Comfort Food
5. Q4443 Trendsetter March 2022, UFS e-panel plus ad-hoc, 19 countries, Base n=1,303
6. What’s new on your menu?. April 2023. Kantar for Global UFS e-panel.

Plant-Powered Protein
7. Nielsen IQ Panelview, 2022

Irresistible Vegetables
9. Unilever Regenerati


Created by TCO London

Photography: Remko Kraaijeveld (food), Charmaine Wu (chefs) Recipes: Unilever Food Solutions Chefs 

Food Styling: Chef Maurits van Vroenhoven 

Recipe Editing: Chef Thais Gimenez, Chef Michael Yamashita

Research Studies: Daniel Quinn, Elspeth Edwards, and Charlotte McDonald of The Forge London, Unilever Food Solutions Consumer Marketing Insights, Kantar 

Expert Insights: Chef Sam Kass, Patrick Chan, Sana Minhas, Christian Weij, Unilever Food Solution Chefs 

Special thanks to: Chef Eric Chua, Unilever Food Solutions Singapore


The Future Menus 2024 Trend Report by Unilever Food Solutions was compiled from robust global data and extensive chef inputs, including industry reports of leading third-party sources (Kantar, Firmenich, Symrise, IFF, The Forge, CMJ-PDC), social media analytics using 77,000 keywords representing 69 million searches across more than 21 countries, perspectives from UFS’ 250 professional chefs and in-depth feedback of more than 1,600 chef professionals located in 21 markets worldwide via UFS e-panels. These insights have been translated into practical, action-driven solutions for foodservice operators globally, including recipe ideas, techniques, and ingredient solutions that operators can use on their menus.