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May 4, 2015

Why Your Next Function Should Include Meat-Free Options

By Elaine Simon

Meat is comprising less and less of the average American's diet, and that shift is asserting itself at restaurants and corporate functions alike.

According to a new report conducted by Technomic, consumers consider seafood, vegetarian and vegan dishes as more healthful than beef, pork and poultry items, and about half of consumers surveyed indicated these options are as satisfying as meals with meat. Forty-five percent of younger consumers and 30 percent of older consumers who eat vegetarian or vegan entrees are more likely to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Nearly three-fourths of consumers who ordered more seafood entrees over the past two years said they did so to eat more healthfully, according to Food Business News.

Sixty-two percent of consumers reported eating meals without beef, pork, chicken or turkey at least once a week, and 69 percent of consumers said they eat a seafood entree at least once every 90 days. The top fish dish at leading restaurant chains is salmon, but cod is quickly growing on both limited- and full-service menus, according to Technomic.

Roughly half of consumers said they would like restaurants to offer a wider variety of seafood entrees and vegetarian or vegan entrees. The most preferred seafood entrees, according to Technomic, are pasta dishes (46 percent), rice dishes (42 percent) and Asian entrees (38 percent). Popular vegetarian or vegan items are mixed vegetables (66 percent), pasta dishes (63 percent) and Asian entrees (62 percent). The fastest growing entree flavors at leading restaurant chains for seafood are mango, cilantro and sesame, and for vegetarian and vegan dishes are feta, cilantro and pesto.

Vegetarians and vegans don't change their food preferences when they travel, and hotels have taken notice of that fact. VeggieHotels, which launched in 2011, lists more than 500 bed and breakfasts, hotels, spas and conference centers in more than 60 countries. To be listed on the website, the property must offer only vegetarian menus.

Two recent hotels that have joined the meat-free wagon are The Mill Hotel in Milperra, Australia, and the Sheraton Tel Aviv (pictured). Both offer options for those who do not include meat or dairy in their diets.

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