In the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the progression of plant-based and plant-forward meals in your favorite restaurants or at your local grocery store; alternative meats like The Impossible Burger and Beyond the Burger, using cauliflower in place of items like rice and pizza crust, and of course, vegetables like zucchini, squash, and edamame being used in place of noodles. But, what does that look like in a healthcare environment?
There’s a misconception that only customers of high-end restaurants in large cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, want to see this type of menu innovation, but we are seeing guests and caregivers in hospitals throughout the country get excited about plant-based.
“Six years ago, we noticed a trend that plant-based items were gaining popularity. We wanted to do plant-based the right way, so we took our time to create six Power Brands that can be used in our 850+ hospitals throughout the country,” said Chef Jeffrey Quasha, Director of Retail Culinary Innovation, “The menu items for our Power Brands could be seen at any fine dining or trendy restaurant around the country, it’s plant-based on a whole new level.”
“Power Brands” are concepts with a single plant ingredient and a simplified menu. The plants featured in these Power Brands are both healthy and engineered to have little-to-no food waste. The stalks, leaves, stems, and skins of each vegetable are all used in the recipe, and they each provide a distinct texture and taste.
These brands are powered by “WellPower” which is Morrison Healthcare’s unique retail wellness philosophy and program that promotes healthy and sustainable living. WellPower’s goal is to inspire people to eat nourishing food that will help them sustain a healthier lifestyle. The interest in wellness and sustainability has grown exponentially in past years and will only become more important as our guests look for ways to improve their health and the health of the planet.
“If you were to ask me six years ago if we’d ever have a 100% plant-based pop-up concept, I would’ve said no,” Jeffrey continued, “but, our customer’s priorities are changing, and our culinary teams have the skills to provide food that’s good for you and the planet.”
Beet Root – Purple is more than just a pretty color! Beets get their vibrant hue from the antioxidant betalain, and they also contain vitamins A, B, and C, which all make us feel great by bolstering the immune system, manufacturing red blood cells, and producing collagen. This concept was named Food Management’s Best Menu Concept of 2020.
Carrot Greens – Carrots are one of the most widely used and enjoyed root vegetables in the world. They’re versatile in several dishes and cuisines and come in a variety of colors. Carrots have been shown to help improve cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart attack, improve vision, and boost the immune system. They also provide a well-rounded mix of vitamins and minerals.
On the Vine – Tomatoes are a nutrient-dense superfood that offers a range of benefits, from helping maintain healthy blood pressure, reducing blood glucose, and supplying antioxidants and lycopene.
Cauli Club – Part of the cruciferous family, cauliflower includes plenty of vitamins and minerals, but its real power comes from cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates. Cauliflower also has a healthy dose of vitamin C and fiber with very few calories.
Silver Kings – Corn is the single most important crop in the U.S. The health benefits are excellent – it’s a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, plus it’s rich in folic acid and vitamin B.
All Caps – This will be our final Power Brand featuring mushrooms and it’s coming out July/August 2022. Since it’s our last concept, we’re going to be pushing the limits further with a more gastropub-esque concept.
By utilizing the root-to-stem of each central whole food ingredient in our Power Brand concepts, we are optimizing the amount of good-for-you plant foods in each dish, while reducing food waste. For example, with beets, usually, the beetroot is the only part of the plant that is considered edible; however, the beet greens, which are usually discarded, are highly nutritious and delicious. In our Beet Root concept, we create delicious items that feature the beetroot and also the beet greens, thereby reducing the food cost of purchasing other typical greens.
What’s next for plant-based?
We are working towards having a combination of plant-forward, veg-centric, regenerative agriculture, and alternative meat options available across all our retail concepts. We have revisited our 14 entrée reimagined concepts and have created over 57 plant-based recipes which will be available for our accounts to use at these stations. A perfect example includes cauliflower wings. There will also be a new all-vegetarian entrée reimagined concept, “Harvest,” coming out this May, and a 100% vegetarian grilled concept coming soon. Think In-N-Out Burger but 100% plant-based!
While we know our customers have an appetite for plant-forward meals, we also know that there are many who still prefer traditional protein. We often look at generational data to understand customer preferences and we know we are not just serving one generation; we are serving 4-5 so we must be mindful of that. That might look like adding meat on top of a mostly plant-based dish, but perhaps the portions are smaller (3 oz vs. 5 oz) – more of a garnish versus being the main part of the meal.
By collaborating to build healthy communities with our healthcare partners, we can make healthy choices easy and accessible to millions of patients, staff, and visitors. We are dedicated to helping hospitals in their mission of becoming a model of healthful eating and encouraging positive behavioral change in the hospital environment and beyond.