The airline industry is projecting an industry-wide return to profitability in 2023, and full recovery in 2024. Along the way, the world’s top airline carriers have been revamping the in-flight experience, most noticeably by adding more meatless options to their menus. Among the airlines that have been adding options have been Alaska Air Group, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc., Onex Corporation subsidiary WestJet, and most recently, International Consolidated Airlines Group S.A. subsidiary British Airways, which has begun offering a new high-protein snack mix from newly-public Pangea Natural Foods based out of Vancouver, Canada.
“Food is one of the most tangible signals of what an airline thinks of its customers,” said former airline executive Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel consulting firm Atmosphere Research Group.
Customers of International Consolidated Airlines Group S.A. subsidiary British Airways now will have a new snack option that goes beyond the cliched bag of peanuts or pretzels. British Airways did the same as Air Canada by bringing in the new Munchie Mix from Pangea Natural Foods, that’s packed with non-GMO superfoods, including dried cranberries, yogurt chips, roasted cashews, almonds, and pumpkins.
“We are excited to work with one of the world’s leading airlines to introduce the Pangea Munchie Mix into British Airways’ fleet of planes.” said Pangea CEO Pratap Sandhu, “Whether a traveler is waiting in an airport lounge or on a long-haul global flight, the Munchie Mix is a high-protein, healthy mix that will solve a passenger’s snack cravings.”
Being added to the British Airways fleet, which is scheduled to fly over 120,000 flights over the winter season, is another win for Pangea after it had already been added to Air Canada’s scheduled passenger service that flies directly to 51 Canadian airports, 46 destinations in the United States and 67 airports in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and flying up to 438 daily flights between Canada and the United States alone. With British Airways, Pangea snacks will now be available within their fleet of over 230 airplanes, serving 13 domestic UK destinations and 192 international destinations in 76 countries.
By the year of the projected industry recovery in 2024, the world’s in-flight catering services market alone is expected to reach $21.5 billion.
Pangea manufactures the Munchie Mix, along with their Plant-Based Patties and Old Fashioned Ghee in-house at their Vancouver Lower Mainland facility, which has been approved by both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Prior to being added to a pair of major airlines, Pangea was busy establishing its other products (Pangea Plant-Based Patties and Old Fashioned Ghee) via their online website and through over 250 retail outlets across Canada and the United States.
Air Canada’s largest Canadian competitor WestJet was bought back in 2019 by the Onex Corporation, ahead of the hit the industry took after 2020. While the airline has done a lot lately to impress a new generation of fliers, including the announcement of gender-neutral uniforms, not everyone is impressed by their menus when they were introduced in 2020.
Apparently, WestJet’s menu was too vegan-friendly for some of its customers, as the newer menus provided health vegan options such as vegetable fritters, Waldorf and Greek sales, as well as Korean cauliflower—however meat-eating customers took to Twitter to vent what they perceived was a lack of animal products.
Despite the complaints, WestJet has held steady to appease all of its customers’ tastes by providing options to economy passengers such as a breakfast with vegetarian sausage and baked beans, as well as vegetarian penne pasta and green Thai curry with chunks of chicken. For business cabin flights, the carrier also provides special meals such as an all-vegan meal, as well as Kosher, Muslim, and Hindu meals, as well as a gluten-intolerant meal.
Two of WestJet’s airline partners are Alaska Air Group, Inc. and Delta Air Lines, Inc., both of which have significantly improved their meatless offerings.
Back in March, Delta introduced five new meatless meals to its inflight menu and tapped into the expertise of Impossible Foods—which itself is expected to go public soon, either through a traditional IPO or a SPAC merger.
For context, Delta flies 200 million people a year, making the new dishes available on select flights that travel 900 miles or longer.
“Not only are plant-based meats like Impossible™ Burger delicious to eat, but they’re also often better for the environment, using far less land and water to produce,” said Kristen Manion Taylor, SVP – In-Flight Service for Delta. “These new options are one part of Delta’s broader mission to promote a wellness-focused travel journey.”
Along with Impossible Foods, the airline has also enlisted the help of Black Sheep Foods to provide plant-based “lamb” meatballs while also providing its own cauliflower cakes and a warm seasonal vegetable plate.
For Alaska Airlines, they celebrated the summer with a new in-flight vegan meal dubbed “Soy Meets World”, which was a summer vegetable salad topped with fried tofu, developed in partnership with West Coast-based company, Evergreens.
“We’re thrilled to offer our guests more healthy and nutritious choices when they fly with us,” said Todd Traynor-Corey, Alaskan Airlines’ Managing Director of Guest Products. “We built our menu thoughtfully to offer more plant-based, vegan and gluten-free options, which include a range of fresh, bright flavors inspired by the West Coast and ingredients that are authentically healthy by nature such as roasted broccoli, crisp romaine and baby lettuce greens, quinoa, fresh fruit and more.”
As per the company’s statement, Alaskan Airline boasts “the most comprehensive domestic food and beverage program in the industry—offering three meal options in First Class, including their Signature Fruit & Cheese on flights as short as 550 miles.
The trend of improved in-flight menus should likely continue, as improved food improves the carrier’s image and its perceived care for its customers. As airlines continue to recuperate from the pandemic’s financial impacts, likely they’ll also seek to allure in high-paying customers in first- and business-class sections.
Because of “the incentive to win those premium class passengers, the incentive to spend more money [on food] is high,” said Steve Walsh, partner at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman in its transportation and services practice in an interview with CNBC.
However, for those seeking fresher, natural foods, the game for airlines is challenging to secure them. Greens and salads are among the most complicated dishes to serve on board. So, look to the carriers to bring in more hot meals involving grains, as well as improved snack options along the way.