Plant-based proteins are growing in popularity. According to the NPD Group, shipments of plant-based protein increased by 20% in 2018. Veggie burgers and other meat substitute options abound. With this increase in plant-based protein options, some may wonder whether chicken is still a relevant menu option. We’re, of course, firmly in camp chicken. Here are just a few of the reasons we believe chicken is — and will continue to be — in high demand on menus across the country.
1. It’s versatile.
Consumers and chefs alike love the taste of chicken because it is so easily paired with a wide variety of flavors, cooking methods and recipes. Because chicken’s taste isn’t as overpowering as other proteins, you can find a chicken dish in nearly every cuisine type. It can be paired with a variety of seasonings, spices, marinades, breadings or rubs, and accommodates menus from upscale dining to down-home casual. Hot or cold, chicken can be used as an appetizer, in a salad or sandwich, or as a main entrée. Its versatility is nearly unparalleled.
2. It’s familiar.
Chicken is a food that’s familiar to many consumers, perhaps because of how frequently it makes an appearance in home kitchens. Coming in at a lower price point than many other proteins, chicken is easily available in almost any supermarket. Even though the most adventurous diners are willing to try new sources of proteins from time to time, at the end of the day the most popular food is one that’s familiar. Although plant-based proteins are growing in popularity, they have a long way to go before topping the level of familiarity that consumers feel with chicken.
3. It’s healthy.
To say that wellness is “a trend” is an understatement. Keto, Paleo, Whole30, Mediterranean — these are just a few current diet fads. Consumers everywhere are becoming more mindful of what they eat. While some may claim this wellness mindset is what’s leading to chicken’s decrease in popularity, the truth is it’s even more of a reason that chicken is still relevant. Chicken is high in protein and low in calories, fat and cholesterol. It has essential vitamins like iron, zinc and vitamin B. Even as alternative protein options come to light, there’s no reason chicken should be knocked off a “healthy” menu.
Even though plant-based protein options are increasing, chicken has been America’s favorite protein for over a decade now, with no indication of decreasing. Technomic reports that 92.7% of operators currently menu chicken, indicating that there are plenty more of us in camp chicken — although few are quite as exuberant as we are.
Looking for chef-tested ways to incorporate chicken into your menu? Check out our recipe inspirations for some delicious ideas.