As consumers become more health conscious, their perceptions of what is considered "healthy eating" at restaurants are changing. According to new research from Technomic, updated definitions of "health" tend to be strongly associated with food/drink that is local, natural, organic and sustainable.
Additionally, consumers are taking more of a balanced and personal approach to healthy eating — seeking out better-for-you foods, while enjoying occasional indulgences.
"More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important," said Darren Tristano, vice president of Technomic. "However, there's a shift happening in terms of what actually defines healthy for them. We're seeing more consumers gravitate toward health-halo claims — such as local, natural and organic, as well as whole-wheat and free-range. Operators can leverage this growing interest in the health halo by developing the kinds of menu offerings that can underscore health without detracting from the taste perception."
Technomic's Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report also concludes:
- Sixty-four percent of consumers today — up from 57 percent in 2010 — agree that it is important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition.
- Half of today's consumers (50 percent) report that they eat healthy food to have a nutritious and balanced diet.
- Half of consumers say they would like restaurants to offer more healthy foods, and nearly as many say they would probably order these options if they were offered.
- Thirty-eight percent of consumers today — up from 33 percent in 2010 — say they are more likely to visit restaurants that have healthy menu options, even if they do not order a better-for-you item.
- More consumers today than polled in 2010 report that they consume local, organic, natural and sustainable foods at least once a week.
- Half of consumers say that descriptors such as low salt, lowfat and low sugar clearly signal health, yet strongly detract from the taste of food. However, foods that indicate a serving of fruit or vegetables, or 100 percent whole wheat highlight health on the menu, while strongly enhancing consumers' taste perceptions.
Read more about restaurant trends.