by Kate McMahon
One glance at the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer Thanksgiving Guide confirms that there’s just no stopping the cauliflower juggernaut, even on turkey’s signature day.
While the big bird commands the “above the fold” half of the holiday handout, the copy below sings the praises of a vegetable: “Ah, cauliflower. Is there anything this cruciferous wonder can’t do?”
Apparently not. Consider the following cauliflower facts, according to Nielsen data:
*Cauliflower is now a featured ingredient in 36 different grocery store categories, from frozen foods to boxed pasta to the snack aisle, including pretzels.
*Sales of cauliflower-centric dishes such as frozen pizza and rice rose 108% in a year.
*Sales of packaged cauliflower products such as rice, noodle and replacements for pasta also soared.
Pretty impressive for a humble, bland vegetable that was often the last one left languishing on a crudité-and-dip platter.
I first wrote about the cauliflower craze back in 2015, with the advent of fresh and frozen cauliflower rice, then moved on to cauliflower pizza crust, frozen cauliflower gnocchi and dry pasta, to cauliflower just about anything now. While Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and specialty organic manufacturers were in the forefront of new cauli-products, big brands such as Bird’s Eye and Green Giant were quick to follow. Kraft even recently added a quarter-cup of cauliflower to two new varieties of its iconic blue box Macaroni & Cheese.
Why has cauliflower eclipsed other vegetables in the fast-growing plant-based food industry?
It is nutrient dense, can take on numerous flavors and its texture allows it to be cooked and processed in many different ways. And it just plain sounds healthy, which works for the 67% of Americans who now say they prioritize healthy or socially conscious food purchases, according to a recent study.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to feel less guilty diving into a calorie-laden cheese-and-pepperoni pizza at California Pizza Kitchen or Chuck E. Cheese when it is served on a cauliflower crust.
Clearly, cauliflower’s clout will continue to grow, and I would agree with Gail Becker, the founder of Caulipower Pizza, that it is not a fad like kale or Brussels sprouts.
"This is all different in a number of ways. (With cauliflower crust pizza) I wanted to show that the concept wasn't cauliflower as a vegetable, but revolutionizing the use of vegetables as ingredients," she told Forbes in an interview.
Becker certainly knows of what she speaks. A California mom of two boys with celiac disease, she decided to swap out flour for cauliflower so her sons could have pizza at home. She launched her Caulipower Pizza in 30 Whole Foods stores in 2017, and today its pizzas, crusts and tortillas available at 25,000 retailers nationwide. Company revenues are expected to hit $100 million this year.
Becker’s latest products are Sweet Potatoast – toast made of sweet potatoes – and New Chick on the Block – frozen chicken tenders made with cage-free chicken, coated with cauliflower instead of flour and baked instead of fried. At 490 calories per bag, the product checks the healthy box.
I think health-conscious consumers will be demanding more such products, and large and small manufacturers who continue to explore plant-based alternatives will come out ahead. I'm with them … but only to a point.
While my family has genuinely embraced roasted cauliflower, particularly when coated with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and quality curry powder, we will go the traditional route next week - Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing with bacon and onions – hold the cauliflower.
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- KC's View: