Cauliflower power: the unstoppable rise of this versatile vegetable

Cauliflower power: the unstoppable rise of this versatile vegetable

By
Laura Robinson
April 14, 2020

After spending years relegated to one cheesy dish, in 2017 cauliflower made it big.

Kicking kale to the curb, cauliflower pizza crust became a standard item on restaurant menus. Cauliflower rice flew off the shelves so quickly that supermarkets issued a two bag limit.

But far from fading into the annals of food trend history, the craze around this cruciferous champion continues to grow. Studies show that sales rise by around 19% each year. And food entrepreneurs are getting increasingly creative about the products it appears in, with the ingredient now present in 36 different grocery store categories.

So, let’s take a closer look at how broccoli’s paler cousin stage-managed this rise to stardom and explore how the trend continues to evolve today.

Trend drivers: a healthy, versatile and diet-friendly ingredient

First off, cauliflower is indisputably nutritious. In addition to plenty of fibre and B-vitamins, one cup contains over three quarters of your daily vitamin C requirements. Studies have shown that it may help regulate our immune systems, reduce inflammation and is a great option for people struggling to lose weight.

It’s also one versatile vegetable. Absorbing the flavours around it like a sponge, it’s a perfect ingredient for saucy dishes like curries or stir fries. From crumbling and pickling to sautéing and roasting, cauliflower integrates seamlessly into most people’s existing meal rotations.

And when it comes to accommodating different diets, it’s certainly your flexible friend. Plant-based? Low carb? Gluten-free? Keto? Paleo? Cauliflower ticks your boxes. It also tends to be a popular choice for parents trying to sneak extra veggies into their green-phobic children’s diets.

Varieties: white, green, purple, yellow - and pointy.

Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, hails from the same family as kale, broccoli and cabbage. The white variety – a bouquet of tightly bound florets packaged in green leaves – is a familiar sight on most European retail shelves. Due to its crumbly texture, it can easily be popped in a food processor and turned into “rice” or sliced into “steaks” and grilled to perfection.

But as the cauli craze continued to grow, more colourful varieties also started to appear at farmers’ markets or on restaurant menus. The Romanesco, for example, with its distinctive lime green colour and pointy-shaped florets, has a crunchier mouthfeel, a nutty taste and is particularly delicious when roasted. Then there’s the green, purple and yellow varieties that have a sweeter and milder taste - and even boast a better nutrient bang for your buck.

Products: from pizza and pasta to crisps and crackers

The cauliflower trend evolved in waves. First came the meat alternatives. The T-bone steaks, the burgers, the sausages, the “blended” chicken nuggets, the schnitzel. Then it became everyone’s favourite low carb grain alternative. Cauliflower became “rice” or “flour” and was baked into all kinds of goodies – from pizza dough and pasta to bread, brownies and biscuits.    

The invasion of retailers’ snack aisles soon followed. The humble vegetable became crisps, crackers, puffs and pretzels. Conagra even made it a key ingredient in its “Power dressing”, combined with lentils, white beans and avocado oil. But more recently, leading food brands have shown that there’s still ample scope for cauli creativity by transforming it into mylk, hot cereal, ketchup, hummus, latkes, coffee and even ice cream.

Case studies: Caulipower and Grounded Foods

Gail Becker’s kids both have Celiac disease. But they also wanted pizza. After being disappointed by available gluten-free options, she decided to make her own. Her kids loved her creation - but Gail realised that most moms simply don’t have ninety minutes to steam, squeeze, mix and bake their own bases. So, in 2016 she quit her job and in 2017 Caulipower was born. In its first year, the company generated $45 million in revenue and by 2019 it became the 8th top frozen pizza brand in the US. Today, they sell in over 25,000 retailers across North America. The company has since expanded its product range to include riced cauliflower, cauliflower tortillas and baked chicken tenders with a cauliflower coating.

Shaun Quade, co-founder of Grounded Foods, on the other hand, is a culinary magician. As a chef in his unique, multi-sensory restaurant in Australia, he famously transformed celeriac into oysters. But his next act is attracting even more attention: he’s created cheese from cauliflower and hemp seeds. His range currently includes gruyere and camembert style products that are nut, soy and dairy free. Quade now has big plans to develop a variety of complementary and convenience products – from pizza cheese to grab and go snacks. Products were initially released to a number of leading restaurants and Grounded Foods has recently started selling direct to consumers over their website earlier this month.

So when does a trend go mainstream?

Unlike a flash in the pan popstar, cauli has proven itself to be the Madonna of the ingredient world, constantly adapting to play into emerging trends. But when is a trend no longer a trend? When does an ingredient become a staple?

Experts have an interesting theory here. Trends apply to previously underappreciated or lesser-known foods that are finally finding their moment in the sun. Tomatoes are delicious but there’s no buzz around them because, well, everyone knows that they are. But cauliflower, a longstanding vegetable underdog, hasn’t yet ceased to amaze us with its overlooked versatility. And it seems like food entrepreneurs and leading chefs have enough tricks up their sleeve to keep us captivated for a while yet.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Consider how you could use cauliflower as a meat alternative in ready-made products or to add a new twist to existing snack ranges.
  • Think about adding cauliflower rice or roasted cauliflower to pre-made buddha bowls or grab and go salads.

Food Service

  • Try offering cauliflower rice as a low-carb option to replace rice in dishes like curries, stir fries, chilli, sushi, stuffed veggies or taco bowls.
  • Treat veggie, vegan or foodie customers to some more exotic cauli alternatives - from Gobhi Mattar Masala to crispy Kung Pao.

Retail

  • Try bringing some colour and variation to your produce aisle by stocking up on lesser-known cauliflower varieties, sourced from local producers.
  • Connect with local suppliers to explore ready-made cauliflower products – from frozen goods to grab and go snacks.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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  • Access Member Directory
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After spending years relegated to one cheesy dish, in 2017 cauliflower made it big.

Kicking kale to the curb, cauliflower pizza crust became a standard item on restaurant menus. Cauliflower rice flew off the shelves so quickly that supermarkets issued a two bag limit.

But far from fading into the annals of food trend history, the craze around this cruciferous champion continues to grow. Studies show that sales rise by around 19% each year. And food entrepreneurs are getting increasingly creative about the products it appears in, with the ingredient now present in 36 different grocery store categories.

So, let’s take a closer look at how broccoli’s paler cousin stage-managed this rise to stardom and explore how the trend continues to evolve today.

Trend drivers: a healthy, versatile and diet-friendly ingredient

First off, cauliflower is indisputably nutritious. In addition to plenty of fibre and B-vitamins, one cup contains over three quarters of your daily vitamin C requirements. Studies have shown that it may help regulate our immune systems, reduce inflammation and is a great option for people struggling to lose weight.

It’s also one versatile vegetable. Absorbing the flavours around it like a sponge, it’s a perfect ingredient for saucy dishes like curries or stir fries. From crumbling and pickling to sautéing and roasting, cauliflower integrates seamlessly into most people’s existing meal rotations.

And when it comes to accommodating different diets, it’s certainly your flexible friend. Plant-based? Low carb? Gluten-free? Keto? Paleo? Cauliflower ticks your boxes. It also tends to be a popular choice for parents trying to sneak extra veggies into their green-phobic children’s diets.

Varieties: white, green, purple, yellow - and pointy.

Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, hails from the same family as kale, broccoli and cabbage. The white variety – a bouquet of tightly bound florets packaged in green leaves – is a familiar sight on most European retail shelves. Due to its crumbly texture, it can easily be popped in a food processor and turned into “rice” or sliced into “steaks” and grilled to perfection.

But as the cauli craze continued to grow, more colourful varieties also started to appear at farmers’ markets or on restaurant menus. The Romanesco, for example, with its distinctive lime green colour and pointy-shaped florets, has a crunchier mouthfeel, a nutty taste and is particularly delicious when roasted. Then there’s the green, purple and yellow varieties that have a sweeter and milder taste - and even boast a better nutrient bang for your buck.

Products: from pizza and pasta to crisps and crackers

The cauliflower trend evolved in waves. First came the meat alternatives. The T-bone steaks, the burgers, the sausages, the “blended” chicken nuggets, the schnitzel. Then it became everyone’s favourite low carb grain alternative. Cauliflower became “rice” or “flour” and was baked into all kinds of goodies – from pizza dough and pasta to bread, brownies and biscuits.    

The invasion of retailers’ snack aisles soon followed. The humble vegetable became crisps, crackers, puffs and pretzels. Conagra even made it a key ingredient in its “Power dressing”, combined with lentils, white beans and avocado oil. But more recently, leading food brands have shown that there’s still ample scope for cauli creativity by transforming it into mylk, hot cereal, ketchup, hummus, latkes, coffee and even ice cream.

Case studies: Caulipower and Grounded Foods

Gail Becker’s kids both have Celiac disease. But they also wanted pizza. After being disappointed by available gluten-free options, she decided to make her own. Her kids loved her creation - but Gail realised that most moms simply don’t have ninety minutes to steam, squeeze, mix and bake their own bases. So, in 2016 she quit her job and in 2017 Caulipower was born. In its first year, the company generated $45 million in revenue and by 2019 it became the 8th top frozen pizza brand in the US. Today, they sell in over 25,000 retailers across North America. The company has since expanded its product range to include riced cauliflower, cauliflower tortillas and baked chicken tenders with a cauliflower coating.

Shaun Quade, co-founder of Grounded Foods, on the other hand, is a culinary magician. As a chef in his unique, multi-sensory restaurant in Australia, he famously transformed celeriac into oysters. But his next act is attracting even more attention: he’s created cheese from cauliflower and hemp seeds. His range currently includes gruyere and camembert style products that are nut, soy and dairy free. Quade now has big plans to develop a variety of complementary and convenience products – from pizza cheese to grab and go snacks. Products were initially released to a number of leading restaurants and Grounded Foods has recently started selling direct to consumers over their website earlier this month.

So when does a trend go mainstream?

Unlike a flash in the pan popstar, cauli has proven itself to be the Madonna of the ingredient world, constantly adapting to play into emerging trends. But when is a trend no longer a trend? When does an ingredient become a staple?

Experts have an interesting theory here. Trends apply to previously underappreciated or lesser-known foods that are finally finding their moment in the sun. Tomatoes are delicious but there’s no buzz around them because, well, everyone knows that they are. But cauliflower, a longstanding vegetable underdog, hasn’t yet ceased to amaze us with its overlooked versatility. And it seems like food entrepreneurs and leading chefs have enough tricks up their sleeve to keep us captivated for a while yet.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Consider how you could use cauliflower as a meat alternative in ready-made products or to add a new twist to existing snack ranges.
  • Think about adding cauliflower rice or roasted cauliflower to pre-made buddha bowls or grab and go salads.

Food Service

  • Try offering cauliflower rice as a low-carb option to replace rice in dishes like curries, stir fries, chilli, sushi, stuffed veggies or taco bowls.
  • Treat veggie, vegan or foodie customers to some more exotic cauli alternatives - from Gobhi Mattar Masala to crispy Kung Pao.

Retail

  • Try bringing some colour and variation to your produce aisle by stocking up on lesser-known cauliflower varieties, sourced from local producers.
  • Connect with local suppliers to explore ready-made cauliflower products – from frozen goods to grab and go snacks.

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After spending years relegated to one cheesy dish, in 2017 cauliflower made it big.

Kicking kale to the curb, cauliflower pizza crust became a standard item on restaurant menus. Cauliflower rice flew off the shelves so quickly that supermarkets issued a two bag limit.

But far from fading into the annals of food trend history, the craze around this cruciferous champion continues to grow. Studies show that sales rise by around 19% each year. And food entrepreneurs are getting increasingly creative about the products it appears in, with the ingredient now present in 36 different grocery store categories.

So, let’s take a closer look at how broccoli’s paler cousin stage-managed this rise to stardom and explore how the trend continues to evolve today.

Trend drivers: a healthy, versatile and diet-friendly ingredient

First off, cauliflower is indisputably nutritious. In addition to plenty of fibre and B-vitamins, one cup contains over three quarters of your daily vitamin C requirements. Studies have shown that it may help regulate our immune systems, reduce inflammation and is a great option for people struggling to lose weight.

It’s also one versatile vegetable. Absorbing the flavours around it like a sponge, it’s a perfect ingredient for saucy dishes like curries or stir fries. From crumbling and pickling to sautéing and roasting, cauliflower integrates seamlessly into most people’s existing meal rotations.

And when it comes to accommodating different diets, it’s certainly your flexible friend. Plant-based? Low carb? Gluten-free? Keto? Paleo? Cauliflower ticks your boxes. It also tends to be a popular choice for parents trying to sneak extra veggies into their green-phobic children’s diets.

Varieties: white, green, purple, yellow - and pointy.

Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, hails from the same family as kale, broccoli and cabbage. The white variety – a bouquet of tightly bound florets packaged in green leaves – is a familiar sight on most European retail shelves. Due to its crumbly texture, it can easily be popped in a food processor and turned into “rice” or sliced into “steaks” and grilled to perfection.

But as the cauli craze continued to grow, more colourful varieties also started to appear at farmers’ markets or on restaurant menus. The Romanesco, for example, with its distinctive lime green colour and pointy-shaped florets, has a crunchier mouthfeel, a nutty taste and is particularly delicious when roasted. Then there’s the green, purple and yellow varieties that have a sweeter and milder taste - and even boast a better nutrient bang for your buck.

Products: from pizza and pasta to crisps and crackers

The cauliflower trend evolved in waves. First came the meat alternatives. The T-bone steaks, the burgers, the sausages, the “blended” chicken nuggets, the schnitzel. Then it became everyone’s favourite low carb grain alternative. Cauliflower became “rice” or “flour” and was baked into all kinds of goodies – from pizza dough and pasta to bread, brownies and biscuits.    

The invasion of retailers’ snack aisles soon followed. The humble vegetable became crisps, crackers, puffs and pretzels. Conagra even made it a key ingredient in its “Power dressing”, combined with lentils, white beans and avocado oil. But more recently, leading food brands have shown that there’s still ample scope for cauli creativity by transforming it into mylk, hot cereal, ketchup, hummus, latkes, coffee and even ice cream.

Case studies: Caulipower and Grounded Foods

Gail Becker’s kids both have Celiac disease. But they also wanted pizza. After being disappointed by available gluten-free options, she decided to make her own. Her kids loved her creation - but Gail realised that most moms simply don’t have ninety minutes to steam, squeeze, mix and bake their own bases. So, in 2016 she quit her job and in 2017 Caulipower was born. In its first year, the company generated $45 million in revenue and by 2019 it became the 8th top frozen pizza brand in the US. Today, they sell in over 25,000 retailers across North America. The company has since expanded its product range to include riced cauliflower, cauliflower tortillas and baked chicken tenders with a cauliflower coating.

Shaun Quade, co-founder of Grounded Foods, on the other hand, is a culinary magician. As a chef in his unique, multi-sensory restaurant in Australia, he famously transformed celeriac into oysters. But his next act is attracting even more attention: he’s created cheese from cauliflower and hemp seeds. His range currently includes gruyere and camembert style products that are nut, soy and dairy free. Quade now has big plans to develop a variety of complementary and convenience products – from pizza cheese to grab and go snacks. Products were initially released to a number of leading restaurants and Grounded Foods has recently started selling direct to consumers over their website earlier this month.

So when does a trend go mainstream?

Unlike a flash in the pan popstar, cauli has proven itself to be the Madonna of the ingredient world, constantly adapting to play into emerging trends. But when is a trend no longer a trend? When does an ingredient become a staple?

Experts have an interesting theory here. Trends apply to previously underappreciated or lesser-known foods that are finally finding their moment in the sun. Tomatoes are delicious but there’s no buzz around them because, well, everyone knows that they are. But cauliflower, a longstanding vegetable underdog, hasn’t yet ceased to amaze us with its overlooked versatility. And it seems like food entrepreneurs and leading chefs have enough tricks up their sleeve to keep us captivated for a while yet.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Consider how you could use cauliflower as a meat alternative in ready-made products or to add a new twist to existing snack ranges.
  • Think about adding cauliflower rice or roasted cauliflower to pre-made buddha bowls or grab and go salads.

Food Service

  • Try offering cauliflower rice as a low-carb option to replace rice in dishes like curries, stir fries, chilli, sushi, stuffed veggies or taco bowls.
  • Treat veggie, vegan or foodie customers to some more exotic cauli alternatives - from Gobhi Mattar Masala to crispy Kung Pao.

Retail

  • Try bringing some colour and variation to your produce aisle by stocking up on lesser-known cauliflower varieties, sourced from local producers.
  • Connect with local suppliers to explore ready-made cauliflower products – from frozen goods to grab and go snacks.

After spending years relegated to one cheesy dish, in 2017 cauliflower made it big.

Kicking kale to the curb, cauliflower pizza crust became a standard item on restaurant menus. Cauliflower rice flew off the shelves so quickly that supermarkets issued a two bag limit.

But far from fading into the annals of food trend history, the craze around this cruciferous champion continues to grow. Studies show that sales rise by around 19% each year. And food entrepreneurs are getting increasingly creative about the products it appears in, with the ingredient now present in 36 different grocery store categories.

So, let’s take a closer look at how broccoli’s paler cousin stage-managed this rise to stardom and explore how the trend continues to evolve today.

Trend drivers: a healthy, versatile and diet-friendly ingredient

First off, cauliflower is indisputably nutritious. In addition to plenty of fibre and B-vitamins, one cup contains over three quarters of your daily vitamin C requirements. Studies have shown that it may help regulate our immune systems, reduce inflammation and is a great option for people struggling to lose weight.

It’s also one versatile vegetable. Absorbing the flavours around it like a sponge, it’s a perfect ingredient for saucy dishes like curries or stir fries. From crumbling and pickling to sautéing and roasting, cauliflower integrates seamlessly into most people’s existing meal rotations.

And when it comes to accommodating different diets, it’s certainly your flexible friend. Plant-based? Low carb? Gluten-free? Keto? Paleo? Cauliflower ticks your boxes. It also tends to be a popular choice for parents trying to sneak extra veggies into their green-phobic children’s diets.

Varieties: white, green, purple, yellow - and pointy.

Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, hails from the same family as kale, broccoli and cabbage. The white variety – a bouquet of tightly bound florets packaged in green leaves – is a familiar sight on most European retail shelves. Due to its crumbly texture, it can easily be popped in a food processor and turned into “rice” or sliced into “steaks” and grilled to perfection.

But as the cauli craze continued to grow, more colourful varieties also started to appear at farmers’ markets or on restaurant menus. The Romanesco, for example, with its distinctive lime green colour and pointy-shaped florets, has a crunchier mouthfeel, a nutty taste and is particularly delicious when roasted. Then there’s the green, purple and yellow varieties that have a sweeter and milder taste - and even boast a better nutrient bang for your buck.

Products: from pizza and pasta to crisps and crackers

The cauliflower trend evolved in waves. First came the meat alternatives. The T-bone steaks, the burgers, the sausages, the “blended” chicken nuggets, the schnitzel. Then it became everyone’s favourite low carb grain alternative. Cauliflower became “rice” or “flour” and was baked into all kinds of goodies – from pizza dough and pasta to bread, brownies and biscuits.    

The invasion of retailers’ snack aisles soon followed. The humble vegetable became crisps, crackers, puffs and pretzels. Conagra even made it a key ingredient in its “Power dressing”, combined with lentils, white beans and avocado oil. But more recently, leading food brands have shown that there’s still ample scope for cauli creativity by transforming it into mylk, hot cereal, ketchup, hummus, latkes, coffee and even ice cream.

Case studies: Caulipower and Grounded Foods

Gail Becker’s kids both have Celiac disease. But they also wanted pizza. After being disappointed by available gluten-free options, she decided to make her own. Her kids loved her creation - but Gail realised that most moms simply don’t have ninety minutes to steam, squeeze, mix and bake their own bases. So, in 2016 she quit her job and in 2017 Caulipower was born. In its first year, the company generated $45 million in revenue and by 2019 it became the 8th top frozen pizza brand in the US. Today, they sell in over 25,000 retailers across North America. The company has since expanded its product range to include riced cauliflower, cauliflower tortillas and baked chicken tenders with a cauliflower coating.

Shaun Quade, co-founder of Grounded Foods, on the other hand, is a culinary magician. As a chef in his unique, multi-sensory restaurant in Australia, he famously transformed celeriac into oysters. But his next act is attracting even more attention: he’s created cheese from cauliflower and hemp seeds. His range currently includes gruyere and camembert style products that are nut, soy and dairy free. Quade now has big plans to develop a variety of complementary and convenience products – from pizza cheese to grab and go snacks. Products were initially released to a number of leading restaurants and Grounded Foods has recently started selling direct to consumers over their website earlier this month.

So when does a trend go mainstream?

Unlike a flash in the pan popstar, cauli has proven itself to be the Madonna of the ingredient world, constantly adapting to play into emerging trends. But when is a trend no longer a trend? When does an ingredient become a staple?

Experts have an interesting theory here. Trends apply to previously underappreciated or lesser-known foods that are finally finding their moment in the sun. Tomatoes are delicious but there’s no buzz around them because, well, everyone knows that they are. But cauliflower, a longstanding vegetable underdog, hasn’t yet ceased to amaze us with its overlooked versatility. And it seems like food entrepreneurs and leading chefs have enough tricks up their sleeve to keep us captivated for a while yet.

Business opportunities

Manufacturers

  • Consider how you could use cauliflower as a meat alternative in ready-made products or to add a new twist to existing snack ranges.
  • Think about adding cauliflower rice or roasted cauliflower to pre-made buddha bowls or grab and go salads.

Food Service

  • Try offering cauliflower rice as a low-carb option to replace rice in dishes like curries, stir fries, chilli, sushi, stuffed veggies or taco bowls.
  • Treat veggie, vegan or foodie customers to some more exotic cauli alternatives - from Gobhi Mattar Masala to crispy Kung Pao.

Retail

  • Try bringing some colour and variation to your produce aisle by stocking up on lesser-known cauliflower varieties, sourced from local producers.
  • Connect with local suppliers to explore ready-made cauliflower products – from frozen goods to grab and go snacks.