/ Gluten-Free, Healthy Menu Options, Menu labeling, Nutrition

Woman Looking at Vegetables in Refrigerator ca. 2003

With the increasing popularity of food bloggers, wellness gurus, and “foodies,” it is becoming clear that eating healthy isn’t just a lifestyle, but a growing trend among Americans. In a study conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), 1,000 consumers between the ages of 18-80 were surveyed about their diet. 64% of those surveyed indicated that they had read an article, seen a movie, or read a book that examined the U.S. food system and 58% of those consumers indicated that they had changed their food purchasing habits based on the information presented to them. Additionally, 23% were trying to lose up to 10 lbs and 34% were trying to lose 10 or more lbs; something that eating nutritious meals can help them with. Current trends for food include antibiotic-free, hormone-free, non-GMO, additive-free and preservative-free. Antibiotic use in animals has many concerned that it can lead to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, some consumers fear that ingesting artificial hormones could cause cancer, and the debate about GMOs is continually heating up. Not all consumers agree on what makes a food healthy, but “clean” eating terms continue to top the list. In addition to these concerns, many consumers believe that restaurants add unhealthy ingredients to their products. Do these trends and the increasing desire to eat “clean” mean restaurants are in danger of losing consumers? Well, yes and no.

Yes, many trends come and go, but these trends are increasing in popularity and while some terms lack a formal definition or are currently unregulated, that doesn’t mean they will stay that way. Consumers are influenced by what they read and hear and if these trends continue to show up in newsfeeds, they will continue to be on the lookout. At the same time, consumers will continue to have cravings for so called “forbidden foods” and when those cravings hit nothing, not even health trends, will stand in their way.

So, what can you do to cash in on this new trend? Menu labeling is already mandated for foodservice businesses with 20+ locations to post calories on their menus and menu boards before May 5, 2017. So why not include a clean menu review as part of this as well? Having nutrition information available helps consumers decide what or where to eat with 52% of those surveyed by IFIC indicating that they use nutrition information when dining out and 4% refusing to eat somewhere without reading the nutrition facts. The majority of those using this information fall between the ages of 18-49. Adding “clean” menu items will provide further incentive for dining at your establishment for those consumers looking to take care of their dietary preferences. Being more transparent with your menu will help establish trust with your guests while keeping up with the current food trends. Going “clean” is not a one-step process and can take years to implement. We recommend starting with a menu review and slowly altering recipes until you’ve achieved the goals that are important to your establishment. MenuTrinfo can also help locate manufacturers that produce items that meet your “clean” menu goals.

Many consumers want to know where their food is coming from and that the ingredients they avoid at home aren’t making their way into the foods they consume while eating out. Americans spend a great deal of time and money eating out, why not help them stay on track by customizing your menu to meet their demands? The clean trend is picking up speed and appears to be here to stay.