Menus shift to reflect transparency

| by Betsy Craig
Menus shift to reflect transparency

The growing trend of restaurants cleaning up their menus by eliminating artificial ingredients has been a positive step toward advocating for consumer health. In recent years, restaurants have made the decision to remove preservatives, additives, sweeteners, and food coloring from their menu ingredients, and have achieved consumer praise as a result.

While larger chains like Noodles and Company and Panera Bread have taken great measures to provide transparent menu items, other chains are following suit.

For example, Papa John’s has gone to great lengths to clean up their menu. According to Entrepreneur, Papa John’s has invested in a $100 million effort to eliminate 14 ingredients from their menu, which includes corn syrup, preservatives and artificial colors, by the year’s end.

Another regional chain focused on transparency is Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli, an 18-unit fast casual chain with locations in seven states. The company conducted a full nutritional analysis of its menu items and worked with several chefs to create a new menu based on bold flavors and fresh ingredients.

So, what's driving this trend?

As times change, so does the typical consumer. And as much as we cringe to admit, those that are currently driving the marketplace (Millennials and Generation Z), are demanding transparency and authenticity when it comes to the foods they eat.

According to the Technomic study, “Top 5 Future Eating Trends Worth Watching,” these generations of consumers will be the cause of consumption growth in the areas of fresh ingredients and healthier meal preparations.  We have seen this strong trend first in identifying allergens, then GMO’s and now it has made a rapid push toward identifying clean foods i.e. foods without additives or artificial ingredients.

Because of this push, many among the foodservice industry have pledged to eradicate artificial ingredients to appease the ever evolving consumer. Other issues also have provoked the need to go fresh.  FDA mandated menu labeling requirements are slowly but steadily approaching, and consumer food sensitivities are becoming more and more top of mind. The need for transparency when it comes to food is now not a matter of personal preference or luxury, it’s an absolute necessity.

For brands doing this well, clean ingredients, a transparent menu and  a positive impact on the food ecosystem are clear marketing messages.

These are the three core values that stem from Panera Bread’s “Food as it Should Be” marketing campaign. Ron Shaich, founder and CEO of the company said in June, “When you come to Panera, you can count on us to tell you what’s in your food. You can trust our commitment to clean ingredients. We want to enable our guests to focus their energies on the joys of eating: naturally delicious ingredients, served with transparency and respect, and shared with friends and family. That is food as it should be.”

If you think that your brand is ready to make similar commitments to transparency and fresh ingredients you can start the process by collecting all of your nutritional information. If your nutritional information is more than two years old, or if you’ve changed ingredients or suppliers, make sure your nutritional information is verified for accuracy.  Next, compile a list of ingredients that you possibly want to eliminate. Artificial colors and ingredients are often a great starting point when you are considering cleaning up your menu. From there, continue down the list and consider preservatives and additives, all of which require a larger scale reformulation.

Becoming an advocate for your patron’s needs will offer a great competitive advantage in the marketplace. It is, without a doubt, an often challenging feat, but one that comes with many rewards once accomplished.

Topics: Health & Nutrition

Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC. wwwView Betsy Craig's profile on LinkedIn

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