Sirha 2017, at the heart of the plant world

The Sirha (Salon International de la Restauration, de l’Hôtellerie et de l’Alimentation) is a big adventure for all gastronomy professionals. This year, France won the prize for the plant-based plate, on the theme of Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince. This is a sign of a bright future for plant-based gastronomy. Welcome to the heart of Sirha plant-based!

The salty side of plants

Sirha 2017 gave the spotlight to plant-based products. This has undoubtedly made brands want to develop their range to attract new consumers and meet a demand that is beginning to grow. New plant-based brands are indeed coming in with a bang, and others are catching up with the market and complementing their traditional offer with a plant-based range.

Here’s a quick overview.

L’Atelier V* is a lovely Breton brand that offers hummus in all its forms. With chickpeas, red beans, coral lentils or split peas, the range now includes four types of hummus, and it’s very tasty! The brand uses 100% organic and French legumes for a healthy, ecological and green diet. The little extra: a very pretty website that offers recipe ideas based on hummus.

Sud’n’Sol specialises in tomatoes and semi-dried or grilled marinated vegetables and offers a range of 100% natural and plant-based products for restaurants and industry.

The Ensoleil’ade brand offers a range of products for the general public (tartars, spreads, vegetable steaks, appetizers, etc.) that can be found in supermarkets.

The brand new Italian brand VeryG was launched exclusively at the Sirha trade fair. A plant-based nutrition concept for shops. I tasted the lupine and artichoke sandwich, very tasty and soft. And I tested the gluten-free biscuits with corn flour and chia seeds. They are crunchy and pleasant to eat, not crumbling like some gluten-free products. A perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee. The brand offers a very wide range of plant-based products: sandwiches, focaccia, plant-based cheese, burgers, pizzas, ready meals, fresh pasta, sauces, jams and juices. No website for the moment for this young brand which has just been created. We will have to wait until March to have all the information.

Ici&La is a brand from Lyon, created by Manu and Benoît, two friends who are students of agricultural engineering. Their idea? To offer catering professionals plant-based alternatives based on legumes, for original and innovative menus… without meat. Steaks, meatballs, nuggets… in green lentil, flageolet bean or chickpea versions, Restaurant Chefs have the choice “Ici et là”!

In 2016, they created the consumer brand under the name Le Boucher Vert. Today, the collection can be found in organic shops.

Vegini is an Austrian brand that offers meat substitutes made from peas. And it looks like this. Not too bad, although a bit rubbery for my taste, but I will gladly try it again because the concept is interesting. The brand is launching its offer in France and the products will be available from 6 February in Casino shops.

Pidy is a Belgian company, world leader in baked puff pastry, specialising in the manufacture of “ready to fill” products. I was pleasantly surprised to discover their plant-based range “Veggie Cups”. With beetroot, spinach, carrot or celery, the “ready to fill” bases come in different flavours and colours, and can be sweet or salty. A gluten-free range is also available.

Cool’eaze is a culinary decoration solution made from herb coulis. Created by Chef Christian Lesquer, in collaboration with the Darégal brand, the collection includes nine types of juice that can be used to create an attractive hot or cold dressing. A Sirha 2015 innovation.

The sweet side of plants

The first sweet innovations can be found in pastries, with the Délifrance brand offering a range of plant-based croissants. One is made with spelt and quinoa, the other with wheat and oats. Seeds are coming to the fore for breakfast and the brand is gradually developing its “healthy” range.

As for chocolate, the big houses like Weiss or Michel Cluizel are listening to the market and the plant-based trend. They already offer plant-based chocolate bars, without knowing it. But they are slow to offer plant-based milk chocolates.

Only Valrhona stands out with its “Inspiration” range, a fruit couverture that combines the texture of cocoa butter with the colour and taste of fruit. A Sirha 2017 innovation.
Other chocolate makers have surprises in store for us but I won’t tell you more for now.

The “healthy” trend

Food Service Vision has carried out an analysis and classification of the new products in the restaurant industry presented by the exhibitors at Sirha 2017. The three main areas of innovation are healthy, pleasure and service. “Healthy” includes products that are good for the body, society and the environment. It signals the “sacredness of green” and the development of vegetarism.

This “healthy” trend is also felt by the Food Studio, a laboratory for culinary experimentation and innovation. Today’s consumption patterns are pushing towards a demand for naturalness where we want to know and control what we eat. This is what is known as “food monitoring”.

The amalgam of trends

But beware of all these confusing trends. Although the word vegan no longer causes so much surprise, it is still misunderstood. Some people are not sure what ingredients are involved (many have told me they can’t do vegan because of the traces present on the production lines, when this is a false problem), some think it is too restricting diet and others put vegan in the same box as gluten-free.

Between health food, dietetics, organic, gluten-free,… vegan is this new trend that is starting to emerge, but which is not always very clear and which we can’ t really define.

It is an issue that still requires some education and explanation among the food industry.

Lack of demand

What is also missing is the lack of demand. Organic and gluten-free foods have already made their entry because the demand is there. Plant-based is still marginal and the demand is not very strong among catering professionals.

It is up to us!

Sirha inspires and gives ideas to move the boundaries. So if I had any advice, this is what I would say:

To the Vegan Chefs, make your mark! Go to trade fairs for restaurant professionals to show what you can do and exchange with the many people involved in the profession. Many Chefs are becoming more and more interested in the world of plant-based foods and are curious about new products. You are in the best position to talk about it.

To the Top Chefs, get inspired! Young Vegan Chefs are talented and already have the answers to your questions. What can you use to replace eggs or milk in a pastry? Ask them, they will give you their opinion.

Consumers, dare to ask! It is said that by 2020, consumers will want to have full transparency on the origin of the products they consume and how this determines their flavours. The consumer is becoming king, and it is the consumer who decides. So let’s ask our Chefs and Restaurateurs to create something new!

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