Plant-based foods are making unprecedented inroads at restaurant chains in Thailand as local diners sink their teeth into the global meatless trend.
Zen Corporation, which owns the Khiang street food brand, and Minor Food Group, the operator of Sizzler and Burger King Thailand, are just a few of the companies introducing dishes with plant protein at most of their restaurants.
Mudman Plc, the operator of Au Bon Pain cafes, and Bar B Q Plaza Thailand, the operator of Charna restaurants, introduced plant-based meals at their restaurants earlier this year. Yum Restaurants Thailand, the trademark owner of KFC, and McThai Co, the operator of McDonald’s, are looking seriously at introducing plant-based meals at their restaurants.
What sets plant-based apart from animal-based foods is that their fibre fraction is made of indigestible compounds, mainly cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins or resistant starch. In addition to fibre, plant-based foods contain macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (minerals, trace elements, vitamins) and phytonutrients (polyphenols, carotenoids).
“Shifting towards more plant-based foods is a global trend for several years and is gradually trending in Thailand as more people become concerned about their health and global sustainable development,” said Boonyong Tansakul, chief executive of Zen Corporation.
With the growing trend of plant-based foods and the company’s policy on sustainable development, Zen today has launched meatless pad kaprao at all Khiang branches nationwide and via delivery to test the market’s response.
Prapat Siangchan, deputy chief operating officer of Minor Food Group, said Burger King was originally scheduled to launch a Whopper made of various plant-based ingredients in February. The plan was delayed temporarily because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We don’t aim for huge sales,” Mr Prapat said. “We just want our plant-based Whopper to be an alternative for meat lovers who one day want to consume a meatless meal. It is also a part of our sustainable development, and we want to move in line with the global direction of Burger King. If the country reopens and foreign tourists are allowed to come back to Thailand, we will consider the plan again.”
Apart from Burger King, Minor Food Group has offered plant-based burgers and steaks at some Sizzler restaurants since last October. Thailand is the first country where Sizzler offers plant-based meals to customers.
Thunyachate Ekvetchavit, managing director of McThai Co, the operator of McDonald’s in Thailand, said that as a leader in Thailand’s fast-food sector, the company always strives to address new trends and respond to customer demand.
“We are exploring opportunities to test plant-based products in Thailand,” Mr Thunyachate said.