Healthy dining has been on every trend watcher’s radar for seemingly forever, and for good reason. Since all of the most powerful demographic groups (millennials, boomers, and Hispanics) are more interested in healthy options than the average consumer, it’s a trend that’s here to stay. In this issue, we’ll look at a couple of categories where healthy menus are starting to catch on.
The latest data from Technomic confirms Fast Casual’s leadership among segments for growth and success, with 11% sales and 9% unit growth among the top 500 chains. A large part of that is due to the food’s emphasis on fresh, made-for-you appeal. From bakery cafés to Mexican and noodle concepts, the Fast Casual signature is fresh and freshly prepared. Using and emphasizing fresh seasonal produce and more “natural” proteins and techniques like smoking to add flavor without fat are just some of the success strategies at play. For example:
- Noodles & Co’s Asparagus di Parma: Fresh asparagus, white wine butter sauce, mushrooms and tomato tossed with spaghetti noodles. Served with parmesan chicken and finished with a lemon wedge and a dusting of parmesan cheese
- Panera’s Chicken Sorrentina: A rustic, egg and spinach ravioli, filled with ricotta, Swiss and romano cheeses in a sauce made of San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic, basil and romano cheese, all served on a bed of fresh baby spinach and topped with smoked, pulled, antibiotic-free chicken and asiago-parmesan chips.
Barilla insight: Pasta is an easy and versatile carrier for freshness and natural proteins with a healthy halo. Better-for-you pastas, like our Whole Grain or Gluten Free, only add to the healthy halo effect, without sacrificing taste in the consumer’s mind.
On the Kids Menu
Given the epidemic of childhood obesity, the kids’ menu has received a lot of scrutiny from the media and pundits for the ubiquity of chicken fingers, hot dogs and French fries. But major operators have been making changes, from Applebee’s to Joe’s Crab Shack and major hotel and leisure brands as well, and many are leveraging the NRA’s Kids Live Well initiative by following its nutritional guidelines.
- Applebee’s introduced a revamped kids menu with all new sides, including co-branded GoGo Squeeze applesauce, yogurt and strawberries, and baby carrots with ranch dressing. A new Chicken Mac n Cheese made its debut as well.
- Bravo! offers whole grain and gluten free pastas in a “create your own” pasta category, where young diners can mix and match their pastas and sauces.
- Disney Parks and Resorts uses a Mickey Check system to certify healthy meals, and has put anemphasis on whole grains and making the healthy choice easy. According to their data, offering a wider variety of healthy choices leads to increased sales.
Barilla insight: Barilla’s full line of better-for- you pastas, from the new Gluten Free to Whole Grain, high-protein Protein+™ and veggie pastas are an easy way to incorporate healthier choices into your kids’ menu. Making healthy pasta the default option, but allowing for customization and keeping the comfort and familiarity of mac and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs, is a recipe for success.