Trending Now: Healthy Menu Choices in the Spotlight
The recent release of the FDA’s proposed guidelines for menu labeling has taken the foodservice industry one step closer to the required posting of calorie and nutritional information. With final regulations expected by the end of 2011, and compliance 6 months to a year after that, operators are gearing up to make changes. While any change in consumer behavior as a result of menu labeling is guesswork at this stage, there’s no doubt that the rapid increase in nutritional information will raise awareness about the general healthfulness of restaurant meals. Restaurant brands have already begun positioning calorie-limited offerings, setting up consumers for calorie-comparison shopping.
- Applebee’s “5 under 550”
- KFC “395 calories for $3.95”
- Corner Bakery “100 under 600”
- Pollo Camparo “505 calories or fewer”
- Bob Evans “Fit from the Farm,” 650 calories or less
- Qdoba “Craft 2,” less than 600 calories
Source: Mintel/Experian Simmons NCS/NHCS, 2009
With so much attention focused on the issue of health on the menu, it’s worth taking a step back to examine just what it is consumers are looking for when it comes to healthy choices, and what they think of what’s currently being offered. A couple of recent studies from Mintel and NPD have done just that, and we’ve pulled some of the highlights for you below.
Consumers are clearly indicating they intend to eat healthier, and more than ever are concerned about and watching what they eat. The number of people who say they’re watching their diet more than doubled from 2003-2008, from 20% to 55%. In an effort to reach those diners, restaurants have been marketing more items as healthy, with a 72% increase in healthy menu item claims in the past 2 years. But they may be missing the mark, judging by a new study by the NPD Group.
According to the study, “When consumers were asked what they look for in terms of healthy eating when they go to eat, the top features related to food quality, balanced meals, portions and cooking methods.” (Consumers Define Healthy Eating when They Go Out to Eat, NPD Group, 2011)
While restaurants are used to marketing their healthy items as “low fat” or “lite,” what their patrons really want is good food, with a few simple signals to let them know it’s a better choice. NPD and Mintel both suggest that whole grains, fresh produce and preparation methods like grilled and baked can send that signal.
- 62% of consumers say they’ll eat more healthfully in restaurants in 2011 – Source: Mintel Menu Insights, 2011
- 72% increase in “healthy” menu item claims in the past 2 years – Source: Mintel Menu Insights, 2011
- Number of people who say they’re watching their diet more than doubled during 2003-2008, from 20% to 55%. – Source: Mintel/Experian Simmons NCS/NHCS, 2009
Mintel Insight: Simple steps bring a healthy halo to the menu
For restaurant operators, appealing to consumers looking for healthy dining options does not require a complete menu overhaul. Instead, the addition of a few key items that hit upon what consumers are looking for when eating healthy may position a menu as a healthy menu option, as well as one that has appeal when looking to indulge.
Barilla Insight: As operators shared in this recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News, better-for-you pastas from a brand consumers trust like Barilla can help you deliver both the healthier choices and the flavor appeal to make those items sell.