Home News What’s The Skinny On Consumer Perception of “Healthy” Eating?

What’s The Skinny On Consumer Perception of “Healthy” Eating?

Foodservice Brief — July 2015

It’s an ongoing challenge to keep up with the latest health trends in the foodservice industry. Fortunately for restaurant operators, consumers’ definition of healthful food has expanded. Now it’s less about removing negatives or adding positives, and more about simply eating real food.

What Do Consumers Want To See More of On Menus?

The health movement is not a fad, it is an evolving trend. We have entered a new phase in marketing health to consumers. Consumers report “healthy” as the number-one characteristic they want to see more of on restaurant menus. Whether explicitly or implicitly stated, consumers are seeking food that is “real.” Beyond “healthy,” a number of different spices and ethnic flavor profiles are resonating with consumers in this marketplace as our acceptance of ethnic foods continues to grow both at home and away from home.

Consumers are Looking for Healthy Options

Q: Which flavors or characteristics would you like to see offered more often in restaurant meals?
Source: The NPD Group/CREST®/years ending December 2014

The Evolution of Health In America

The most recent shift in attitudes follows several decades of consumers focusing on avoiding things in food that were perceived as bad, such as fat, cholesterol, sugar and, over the past five years, gluten. More recently, consumers have shown a stronger leaning to choosing foods with positive additives. And they are particularly focused on whole grains and fiber when it comes to nutrition and eating healthy.

Source: The NPD Group/NPD Custom A&U Study 2015
Source: The NPD Group/National Eating Trends®/Nutrition Survey

Getting Real

“Healthy” is a big news topic. Every day, we read headlines about a new diet, public officials promoting a healthier lifestyle, growing shelf space for healthier alternatives at grocery stores, the growing understanding of the relationship between diet and disease, changes in dietary guidelines, schools providing healthier offerings in their cafeterias, and more. The list goes on and on. Foodservice is not immune to tackling the healthy issue. With consumers more informed than ever about what’s good for them and demands for unaltered foods growing, many restaurant concepts are responding by adding more “real food” options to their menus. Others are launching campaigns to shine a light on existing real food practices.

New Definitions of Health and Better-for-You

Q: Which flavors or characteristics would you like to see offered more often in restaurant meals?
Source: The NPD Group/CREST®/years ending December 2014

Enter Locally Grown Foods and the Growing Popularity of “Farm To Table” 

Sustainable food sourcing is becoming increasingly important to consumers. Local foods allow restaurant operators to be creative with their menus while providing menu items that have growing appeal to consumers. Experiment with locally grown foods to expand beyond traditional American fare; consumers have become considerably more adventurous and willing to try new flavors, food combinations, and textures. 

There is a growing awareness among consumers about not only where their food is from, but how it is raised and processed (see Chipotle). All of this has helped to bring farm-to-table not just to homes, but to schools, restaurants, and other institutions.

Though consumers’ perceptions of healthy eating away from home has been evolving, healthy eating remains more important at home than it is away from home for foodservice visitors. Even so, a growing number of visitors to foodservice concepts are also looking to eat healthy when dining out. Operators and manufacturers need to be mindful of this group’s needs and provide more appealing menu options to attract these visitors.

Understanding the importance of healthy menu offerings, healthy menu drivers, and the target market for healthy eating at foodservice will give you the insight needed to create winning marketing and product strategies that grow the healthy-eating market.

To learn more about Checkout Tracking, please contact your NPD client service representative, call our restaurant analyst, Bonnie Riggs, at 847-692-1767, or email bonnie.riggs@npd.com.

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