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Sustainability takes the spotlight at the 2022 restaurant show

5 solutions to help restaurant operators save the planet

Seaweed pellets that can be transformed into straws to replace plastic. Emission-free electric cars specifically designed for delivery. Plant-based meat alternatives made of jackfruit. And water in aluminum bottles and cans that are both made of recycled material and are more likely to be recycled.

These are a few of the sustainability solutions restaurant operators could find at the National Restaurant Association show floor in Chicago this weekend.

Sustainability was a running theme for many exhibitors, with the sense of urgency about climate change ramping up this year. The show floor was packed with plant-based products, from Ripple’s vegan soft serve (a stand out), which won a Food & Beverage Award, or FABI, this year, to Impossible Food’s new plant-based chicken-like nuggets, the company’s first foray into the poultry category.

Drawing crowds were several examples of “muscle meat” plant-based protein products, like Future Farm’s Chick’n, which behaves like chunks of chicken breast. And Beyond Meat was sampling a steak-like product that could be marinated teriyaki style, or for a taco.

The Korean company that makes Nasoya tofu bites was also showing off their new plant-based Korean steak under the brand Plantspired, which is currently in use at the 200-unit WaBa Grill chain, based in Anaheim Hills, Calif.

Many challengers to market leaders Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods were attempting to position as next-generation alternatives.

Jackie Kim, brand manager for Plantspired, said, “We’re a real food company that’s making plant-based products. There are so many labs now that are getting into the space.”

Sustainable packing in various forms was also on display across the show floor, with many offering compostable options. Most of those were advertising products with no added PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have been linked to health issues. Regulations phasing out use of added PFAS in foodservice packaging are soon to go into effect in several states, including California, New York, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Connecticut and Minnesota.

Here’s a look at five sustainability solutions spotted on the show floor:

CORRECTION: This article has been updated with new information on the Solo Cargo electric vehicle.

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