Plant-Based Foods Taking Root: How Hungryroot Is Helping This Trend Grow

The Growth of the Plant-Based Food Industry

The seeds for the this trend was planted years ago, and it grew on a niche group of healthy-diet advocates and adventurous diners, but now the plant-based craving seems to be flourishing more and more into our mainstream marketplaces and menus. Once tucked away into the vegan or organic shelves and corners of supermarkets, you’ll find almond milk and soy milk mixed in with dairy and alternative proteins like veggie burgers close to regular meats. Tofu, once regarded as a bland surrender to good health, is now headlining dishes at restaurants.

Consumers have become more health-conscious and have come to learn that healthy does not mean tasteless. In fact, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and SPINS (the leading retail sales data company for natural and specialty products), the total market for the plant-based sector (excluding data from Whole Foods Market) topped $5 billion in sales, more than the $4.2 billion the year before.

With plant-based milk at the forefront, this is a 13.1 percent growth for refrigerated products in the natural channel. Alternative cheeses, on the other hand, are the fastest growing category at a 31.4 percent growth in the natural segment and 18 percent growth in all channels, totaling $104 million in sales.

“The steady growth of the plant-based foods industry shows that consumers continue to shift away from animal products towards plant-based options,” Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, said in a release.

But now that plant-based foods are growing in popularity, that’s not the only thing consumers are looking for. This diet used to be so obscure that only die-hards took the time to prepare these dishes properly. No, the desire for plant-based foods has become more commonplace. Consumers want the health with the convenience — and that’s where Hungryroot comes in.

How Hungryroot Makes Healthy Indulgent

Pad Thai with zest and a punch of flavors packed in. A whole stack of pancakes drizzled with syrup, so high and ready to topple like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A decadent chocolate mousse with berries and the extra crunch of nuts sprinkled on. This all sounds like a healthy diner’s star-crossed romance.

Not with Hungryroot. This New York-based company brings comfort food back into the health sector by taking the dishes consumers have an emotional connection with and recreating them with a vegetable base. Yup, they’re all plant-based, and the best part is you can make these healthier alternatives at home.

Beet noodles with savory almond sesame and sweet potato mac and cheese are only a few of the “nutritiously balanced,” “conveniently simple,” and “unexpectedly craveable” options to choose from.

Aside from the fact that Hungryroot has recently raised $7.7 million to make “sinful food healthier,” and aside from the fact it is even backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners — you know, the early stage venture capital firm that has helped build familiar name brands such as Snapchat, IGN, grubhub, Giphy, and Flixter — (meaning that, hey, this might just be a good idea), but the people have spoken, too. And we picked it up on Foodable Labs!

Foodable Labs, through the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), analyzes more than 167K restaurant and hospitality brands and over 220MM global restaurant consumers across 500K foodservice locations. Several metrics make up brand scores (for example, consumer and operator sentiment, engagement, mobile, and influence, among others) for an overall brand score. It was hard not to notice Hungryroot, considering it now scores at an impressive sentiment score of 91.27 out of 100! Its nearest competitor, Nestlé, scored 84.71.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that Hungryroot is doing so exceptionally, too, considering that millennials are behind this idea. Millennials are soon to be the largest buying power group, and Foodable Labs reported that 61 percent of millennials are seeking healthier packaged foods — again, where health with the convenience comes in. This brand will undoubtedly continue to have a strong target audience.

Even now, Foodable Labs shows that 31.4 percent of Hungryroot’s engaged audience — about 298,000 — eats out 3.7 times per month and have a social influence over 22 million food enthusiasts in the United States. If this healthy alternative brand keeps up on their top-notch storytelling and vegetable-centric eating, there’s little wonder that Hungryroot will keep sprouting up successfully.

A post shared by Hungryroot (@hungryroot) on

A post shared by Hungryroot (@hungryroot) on

A post shared by Hungryroot (@hungryroot) on

Co-Founders “Top Chef Masters” star Franklin Becker and former Groupon Vice President and General Manager Ben McKean had a mission to make “healthy foods that people crave.” Their brownie batter, for instance, incorporates black beans, sweet potatoes, and almonds for protein and healthy fats, with two-thirds less sugar than a traditional brownie mix — all without losing its richness.

Their products are ready-to-eat, or can be cooked in seven minutes or less. Their ingredients are naturally fresh for at least seven days. The meals are all under 500 calories, gluten-free, preservative-free, and 100-percent vegan if you opt out of choosing grilled chicken.

“It’s more than just food. I created Hungryroot because I’ve seen firsthand the effect that food has on people’s lives. At the age of 27, I was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, and shortly thereafter, my son was diagnosed with autism. I quickly learned the positive impact that diets rich in fruits and vegetables have on these conditions, but I struggled to be excited by healthy foods,” Becker wrote on the company’s website. “I’m passionate about food, and I didn’t want to sacrifice the pleasure of a truly good meal to eat ‘well.’ So I played with bringing out the flavors and textures of our favorite foods without the usual fats, sugars, and empty carbs.”

Through Hungryroot, these co-founders aim to “change America’s habits one bite at a time.” According to the National Center for Health Statistics, $2.25 trillion was spent on health conditions that could have been prevented by quality nutrition and exercise. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that only 6 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of vegetables. Hungryroot wants to “uproot” these habits.

And Hungryroot’s vision doesn’t end at just changing the way people eat, but they’re moving toward a new future. For every 1 percent of profits made, they donate 1 percent and volunteer another 1 percent of their time to support nutritional education and healthy eating.

“We believe our approach will set a new paradigm for how food brands are developed in the future, and that you will reap the greatest rewards. You'll get the best possible products at the best possible prices, tailored to your tastes and preferences,” Mckean said. “We have a long way to go, but we've made a lot of progress. We were named one of the 25 most innovative brands of 2016 by Forbes, a million units of Hungryroot are now sold annually across the United States, and today, we are proud to announce that we recently raised $7.7 million in funding from some of the nation's best investors to further our mission of creating healthy foods that people crave.”

“It's an important mission and one that we know we could never have even begun to achieve without the support of you, our early adopters. We’re excited by how far healthy indulgence has come in the past two years, and where we will take it together in the years to come.”