Retail & E-Commerce

Online Foodservice Supplier WebstaurantStore Reports 110% YOY Growth in Plant-Based Category

WebstaurantStore, one of America’s leading foodservice suppliers, reports a record $3 billion in revenue in 2022, with a key aspect of its growth strategy revolving around the expansion of plant-based product offerings within its Consumables segment. 

The online restaurant supply store has witnessed increased demand in the plant-based category, experiencing a YOY growth rate of nearly 110%, with expectations of continued rapid expansion into 2024. 

“We don’t like to be ‘just a distributor,’ but want to partner and grow together”

Currently offering over 750 uniquely vegan items supplied by over 100 plant-based product manufacturers, WebstaurantStore primarily focuses on smaller, independent establishments, often underserved by broadline distributors. SYSCO, Gordon, US Foods, and other large distributors have high minimum order requirements and often don’t carry a comprehensive range of niche plant-based products.

ISH Foods plant-based shrimp
© ISH Food

The platform prides itself on working with new and innovative companies looking to break into the national market. Pleese Cheese, Yo Egg, Rind Cheese, The BeHive, Om Sweet Home, and ISH Foods are just some of the many plant-based companies that have debuted in the US through Webstaurantstore or expanded their distribution from regional to national.

Emerging trends

Chase Slenker, plant-based category manager at Clark Associates, the parent company of Webstaurant store, aims to fill gaps in plant-based product offerings by analyzing which categories it lacks availability in and which categories expect the highest growth percentage. He cites that plant-based dairy, butter, and eggs are the platform’s fastest-growing categories, although there is high demand for plant-based meat, seafood, condiments, and desserts as well. 

Speaking to the emerging trends in the plant-based foodservice category, Slenker provided some valuable insights into the growing demands of establishments. He highlighted notable trends, including increased demand for clean-label foods from chefs and foodservice operators and an increased consciousness over pricing from customers, likely due to changing external economic conditions.

Pleese Cheese Vegan Pizza
©Pleese Cheese

Slenker tells vegconomist, “We view all vendors as partnerships, and the vendors that work with us the most see a thriving mutually beneficial partnership. We don’t like to be “just a distributor,” but want to partner and grow together with each and every vendor.”

Strong brand loyalty to legacy plant-based brands

He also stated that there is still some strong brand loyalty to “legacy plant-based manufacturers, such as Beyond Meat, Impossible, JUSTEgg, and Violife. However, foodservice operators are more willing to try new products than consumers and retail customers, especially if they are available at a lower price. 

With an increased demand for one-stop shops for plant-based products and supplies, as opposed to having to source from tons of different suppliers, platforms like WebstaurantStore are establishing themselves as a convenient and cost-effective option. 

Looking forward, Slenker concluded, “We’re working to provide new and innovative plant-based products and plant-based products with clean labels that chefs across the US would feel comfortable serving to patrons, and at a reasonable price-point that operators can also make money while retaining a customer base. This is my core mission as I oversee this category and look to the next five years.”

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