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Plant-based foods gaining in popularity as consumers switch to clean eating

"Plant-based bowls" by ella.o is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

"Plant-based bowls" by ella.o is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Plant-based foods gaining in popularity as consumers switch to clean eating

The percentage of people who eat plant-based foods is ticking upward.

According to The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and egg products, one-third of U.S. consumers eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts — and only occasionally meat or fish. This is referred to as the “flexitarian diet,” and was ranked second in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report best overall diets listing.

And, in 2022, 93 percent of households that bought plant-based meat also purchased meat, according to the Good Food Institute, suggesting that the strict line dividing vegetarians and carnivores is blurring.


Craft Cannery, a contract manufacturer located in Bergen, Genesee County, produces sauces, dressings, oils, marinades, teas, soups, and more for its clients, who include Agatina pasta sauce and Wegmans Private Label products.

“The restaurants come to us so the foods they are famous for can also be purchased in stores,” says Paul Guglielmo, president and CEO of Cannery. He founded the business three years ago and now has about 70 clients.

At Cannery, the production of plant-based foods is a small piece of the business, but “feels like a very well represented niche,” says Guglielmo. “I’m seeing a demand,” he says. “I don’t know if the demand has increased.”

“I’m a meat eater myself,” he confesses. “I know how much better a plant-based diet is [for you] but put a cheeseburger in front of me …”

Still, Guglielmo believes the popularity of plant-based and healthy foods will continue to slowly increase. “More doctors are explaining to patients how much diet affects their overall health,” he says. And the public is increasingly aware of choosing healthy food options.

Cannery products don’t contain preservatives or artificial coloring, he says. “We make sure everything in there is a natural food of some kind,” says Guglielmo. “I deal more with small, artisanal brand [clients] who want the best possible sauces, using fresh produce.

“There is definitely a focus on clean label ingredients — labels that don’t contain a lot of words you can’t understand,” he adds. “I have very few clients who don’t care about that.”

Calorie content and sodium level are both “huge” factors for consumers, says Guglielmo. “I encourage our clients who [have] naturally low sodium, or gluten free [products], or any other type of health claim, to send their product for lab testing and then make the claim on their label,” he says.

Also in business for three years is The Pasta Shoppe on Winton Road, owned by longtime local restaurateur Donna DiMarzo. She estimates that about 50 percent of her customers are vegetarians. “From talking to customers, I know they are not eating meat as much as they used to,” DiMarzo says. “They feel better after eating plant-based foods — not as full — and the doctors say it’s better for them.”


DiMarzo says her plant-based ravioli products sell fast. She makes a mushroom ravioli that contains three different types of mushrooms. “We roast them, grind them up and mix them up with cheese,” she says. Spinach is mixed into the dough of The Pasta Shoppe’s artichoke and red pepper ravioli, a store favorite. Veggie specials include a pea ravioli and an asparagus ravioli. DiMarzo purchases all her produce from a local vendor. She markets her pastas on Facebook and Instagram.

Love Beets USA is a local business that enjoys national distribution.  According to the company, its products are sold in more than 17,000 stores across North America, including Whole Foods Market and Target. It was founded in 2016 by a British husband and wife team, Guy and Katherine Shropshire.

“We saw it was a success in the UK and did a lot of consumer research before entering the U.S. market,” says Cousin George Shropshire, who heads sales and marketing.

A 100,000 square foot manufacturing and distribution facility was built on Lee Road in Rochester. The beets are grown onsite and produced in a variety of ways: vacuum-packed cooked beets; Perfectly Pickled Beets; marinated baby beets; organic beet juice, raw beets, and beet powder.


Why beets? “No one worldwide does what we are doing with beets,” says Shropshire. “Beets are super-healthy snacking items that are no muss, no fuss.” The company did branch out in 2021, launching Offshoot Brands, which manufactures Genuine Coconut, a line of coconut food and beverage products, and Veggie*Confetti, a ready-to-eat line of pickled vegetables, such as jalapeno, carrot and cabbage.

Business has grown steadily, according to Shropshire. “We are coming up with new items to drive consumers to eat more beets.”

Meat used to be at the center of every meal, with vegetables relegated to the side, he observes. “We’ve noticed a trend — people want to move beets to the middle of plate,” says Shropshire. “Health is a huge driver, but so is taste.”

Donna Jackel is a Rochester-area freelance writer.