From Side Dish to Star Attraction: Rooting for Vegetables 

Today’s plant-based diet advocates are not just changing the narrative; they’re transforming our plates with a more straightforward, more recognizable approach to ingredients that’s both innovative and sustainable. 

This year’s FlavorIQ® Food & Flavor Outlook Program: The Perfect Bite explores the delight and emotion of culinary experiences that activate the senses through themes, culinary platforms, ideas, and themes, including Rooting for Vegetables.

stock photo of vegetables

This movement isn’t limited to extends its reach to flexitarian diners, genuine vegans, to those who are simply seeking variety and sustainability in every bite. By incorporating more vegetables into our diet, we’re making a personal health choice and a responsible choice for the planet.  

  • 66% of US consumers are eating more produce and are doing so for long-term health.
  • 63% of Canadian consumers are willing to spend more money on fruits and vegetables if they are locally grown.
  • 62% of Mexican consumers say that spending on fruit and vegetables would still be a high priority if money were tight.

Once confined to the edges of the plate as mere accompaniments, vegetables are now being heralded for what they truly are—sustainable, nutritious, and delicious heroes of the culinary world. It’s time to shed the outdated notion of vegetables as side dishes and welcome a new era where they rightfully shine as center-of-the-plate stars. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking with Vegetables 

Vegetables are not just ingredients; they are culinary chameleons that offer a variety of flavors, textures, and colors. Each vegetable has a unique taste and cooking technique, from leafy greens to hearty roots.  

stock photo of vegetables

With a little creativity and the right seasoning, they can transform any dish into a culinary masterpiece. 

  • 64% of US consumers think black pepper goes well on their vegetables.2 
  • 65% of Canadian consumers think garlic goes well with vegetables.2 
  • 61% of Mexican consumers think lemon goes well with vegetables.

Turning Over a New Leaf with Vegetables 

This is not your grandmother’s vegetable side dish—this is a full-on veggie revolution, where greens and roots take center stage in the most unexpected and delightful ways. 

stock photo of purple yams
  • Elote has seen a 100% growth on menus in the US in the last four years.
  • Ube has seen a 154% growth on menus in the US in the last four years.
  • In the last two years, there has been a 60% increase of peas in specialty pasta and noodle dishes on Canadian menus.
  • Canadian menus saw a 24% increase in cauliflower in specialty breaded vegetable appetizers.3 
  • 36% of Mexican consumers claim that products that contribute to their fruit/vegetable intake are among the most important factors in food.
  • 28% of Mexican consumers plan to start growing their own fruit and vegetables in the next 3 months.3 

Chefs and consumers are rediscovering the essence of cooking by putting vegetables in the spotlight. They are crafting dishes like celery root scallops, eggplant short ribs, and king oyster mushroom bacon that dazzle the palate and inspire a new way of thinking about food. 

Elevating the Veggie Experience 

The plant-based revolution is gaining momentum, but not in the way many might expect. Techniques such as fermenting, pickling, grilling, and roasting are employed to enhance vegetables’ natural flavors, transforming them into mouth-watering main courses. 

stock photo of woman at farmer's market shopping for vegetables

The plant-based revolution is gaining momentum, but not in the way many might expect. Techniques such as fermenting, pickling, grilling, and roasting are employed to enhance vegetables’ natural flavors, transforming them into mouth-watering main courses.  

One notable growth area is the alternative protein market, which veers towards whole-food formulations. 

  • 84% of US consumers are still primarily shopping in stores, so they pick their own produce.4 
  • 86% of Canadian consumers agree eating ‘whole foods’ is the best way to eat healthily.4 
  • With the popularity of vegetables and fruits, 28% of Mexican consumers plan to start growing them in the next three months. 4 

Additionally, the snack aisle is not immune to the vegetable craze. Crisps, chips, and jerky have become popular for highlighting vegetables as the star ingredient. Efforts are underway to maintain the integrity of raw vegetables during processing, resulting in snacks that appeal to a wide range of palates, from children to adults. 

The Meat of the Matter—Without the Meat 

In the world of protein processors, the race is on to create vegetable-forward meat alternatives that mimic meat and celebrate the vegetable itself.

stock photo of plant based meat burgers

It’s an exciting time as brands experiment, incorporating a variety of vegetables to craft satisfying and innovative bites. 

Who knew that a beet could beat out beef on taste and texture? 

  • This trend has seen 68% of US consumers eat plant-based protein frequently (once per week or more).5 
  • 22% of Mexican consumers plan to start growing own vegetables more frequently.5 

What’s Next on the Veggie Horizon? 

The future looks bright (and delicious) for vegetables. With an emphasis on returning to basics and focusing on the integrity of ingredients, the next wave of innovation promises dishes and products that are nutrient-rich, satisfying, and inclusive of all eating habits. 

As more vegetable-forward protein alternatives emerge, brands are still only scratching the surface of what can be achieved when utilizing whole vegetables rather than ingredients such as soy and pea protein. Brands will continue experimenting with meat alternative recipes that celebrate whole, unprocessed vegetables that are just as satisfying as animal proteins. 

The leafy tide is turning, with vegetables enjoying their moment in the sun.

stock photo of vegetable centered meals

Whether you’re a devout carnivore, a flexitarian, or a dedicated vegan, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the versatility and deliciousness of vegetables. Here’s to the future—a future rooted in the garden’s goodness. 

FlavorIQ® Food & Flavor Outlook Program 

At Griffith Foods, we turn insights and culinary creativity into new opportunities with our FlavorIQ® Food & Flavor Outlook Program. Through our annual culinary theme program, we curated a list of key culinary themes that reflect the food industry’s current state and our prediction for what’s next. Learn more about our program and themes here

Let’s Create Better Together

We’re here to help inspire creations that keep your product portfolio on trend. Contact your Griffith Foods representative or reach out to our sales team to learn more about our ongoing research and innovative offerings.


  1. Mintel: Consulting 2024 Trends report
  2. Griffith Foods Flavor Dashboard
  3. Datassential: The Produce Issue 2023 and 2023 & 2024 Canada Season Eat
  4. The Mintel: Perimeter of the Store 10/2023
  5. Mintel Global Consumer Data

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