Meaty flavors minus the meat

The shift to more plant-based alternatives has led to a desire for meaty flavors without the actual meat, Mintel said.

“Diners still crave the savory flavors they find in meat products,” Mintel said. “These flavors can be achieved through the same methods that are typically used to cook meats, such as curing, grilling, and smoking. Specific preparation methods can turn ordinary ingredients into suitable meat alternatives.”

Smoked is one of the fastest growing food flavors, Mintel said, and it has begun to branch beyond meat and into fish, beans and vegetables. “Smoked” as a flavor increased 5 percent on menus from 2015-17.

Restaurants also may use seasonings typically associated with red meats, such as pastrami spices, to suggest meaty flavors in ingredients like fish and vegetables.

One plant-based option is Ahimi, an alternative to tuna that is made from tomatoes. Tomatoes contain glutamic acids, which provide the savory flavor of meaty foods.