Trending Now – How to Make Healthy, Sustainable Foods Sell

At Barilla, health and sustainability are a core value that directs everything we do. As part of that focus, we are proud sponsors of the Culinary Institute of America’s Menus of Change (MOC) and Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC)  programs, among others. MOC recently convened with a 6-week series of Zoom-style sessions and content, and there was a LOT to take in. In case you missed it, we thought we’d pull out a highlight or two to share here.

One of the best lessons and sessions focused on tackling the problem of guests’ reluctance to choose and consume the good-for-you, good-for-the-planet (i.e. plant-based, more vegetables) option because it might not taste good. The challenge is to make those more sustainable, healthier choices an easy choice.

The foodservice industry needs to create a positive vision around plant-based diets—make them fun, make them seductive, and make them taste good. Talk about health only as a secondary message. -CIA Menus of Change

So how do we do that, and how do we know it will work? Dr. Peggy Policastro, PhD, RDN of Rutgers University presented the results of a study from MCURC testing the power of labels and menu descriptors to increase plant-based eating. The results?

Taste-focused labels increase vegetable selection by 29% over the healthful label.

Even better, taste-focus labels helped increase vegetable consumption by 39%; student didn’t just choose to add more veggies to their plates, they ate them up, too!

A key caveat – taste-focused labels increase the expectation that the food will taste good…so you’d better deliver!

The team at sparq created a helpful tool for operators to increase the appeal of their own plant-forward dishes. Once you have a delicious plant-forward dish to promote, run it through a simple process to help find the right words. Here are four themes and examples that help:

  • Indulgent: creamy, caramelized, juicy, glazed
  • Exciting: sizzling, twisted, inspired, bold
  • Traditional: homestyle, nonna’s, old-fashioned, rustic
  • Location-based: New Orleans, tavern-style, Tuscan, California-style

Studies show consumers have an interest in making healthier food choices but also in comfort foods.With some skillful menu language and the right pasta dish, you can help them have it all! Here’s a collection of our favorite plant-based pasta dishes, and how we might describe using these principles:

Orzo “Carbonara” with portobello lardons: Orzo Pasta with sweet English peas, crisp snow peas, asparagus, Portobello mushroom “Bacon Lardons” and fresh herbs, tossed with lemon-herb vinaigrette and whipped parmesan cream

Orecchiette with Spicy Broccoli: A classic of the Puglia region, this rustic dish adds some kick to garlic-scented, tender broccolini, served over the famous “little ear” -shaped pasta.

Bucatini with Hazelnut and Carrot Top Pesto, Charred Carrot Skins and Pecorino Romano: Sweet and smoky carrots are balanced with a fresh and savory carrot-top pesto, tossed with the al dente bite of bucatini pasta.

Who’s hungry?! 😊