There are two types of rainbow foods in our food-obsessed, endlessly-Instagrammable world. First up are the neon, artificially colored ones, like the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino or the rainbow bagel. And then there are the virtuous rainbows: all-natural, full-color ROYGBIV arrays of fruits and vegetables that are appealing to food photographers.
They’re just as pretty as a Unicorn Frappuccino, but the self-satisfied feeling you get from knowing they’re healthier, too, can impart an extra hint of flavor.
Surely, that was part of the idea behind Pret A Manger’s newest menu offerings. Not the only consideration, of course: The new wraps, bowls and sandwiches are vegetarian and vegan, providing a rare oasis of choices for eaters who are used to compromising on flavor.
But when it comes to appealing to meat-eaters, it doesn’t hurt that these composed offerings are pretty good looking — and on-trend, too. There’s pink beet hummus, orange sweet potato, yellow ginger dressing and plenty of greens, from avocado to spinach. Pret has even suggested a hashtag for those rainbow social media snapshots: #notjustforveggies.
Entree portions are priced between $7 and $10, and the snacks are priced around $4.
The British-founded chain, with about 400 locations, is smart to push vegetables in the United States, where diners are increasingly turning away from meat. A March report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that Americans ate 19 percent less beef from 2005 to 2014. Consumption of chicken and pork also dipped during that time, though not as dramatically.
Being veggie-friendly has already paid off elsewhere. In London, Pret has opened entire veggie-only locations, where sales were expected to plummet but instead grew 70 percent compared with when those shops offered non-vegetarian options, Business Insider reported. The brand’s worldwide sales rose 15 percent last year in part because of the demand for vegetarian offerings, according to the Financial Times, with about a fifth of sales coming from newer products.
Perhaps the American locations will get a similar boost from the new veggie offerings. Fans on social media have been singing the menu’s praises. In a taste test, Washington Post reporters favored the artfully arranged turmeric tofu box with sweet potatoes, beet hummus and jicama-zucchini slaw with a ginger dressing, as well as the South African-inspired Chakalaka wrap, with butternut squash, tomato and bean relish, and a coconut yogurt that brought a creaminess to the vegan meal. An Asian greens veggie pot stuffed with seaweed, avocado and edamame is just the right size for a healthful snack.
Other offerings were on the sweet side — a black bean and pineapple wrap, a maple-glazed sweet potato banh mi — but were interesting enough, especially for someone looking for a more healthful lunch.
And that someone doesn’t necessarily have to be vegetarian or vegan. “It seems the movement for eating less meat continues to grow,” Pret chief executive Clive Schlee wrote in his blog.
The prettier the food gets, the truer that will become.