Consumers' Definition of Healthy Eating Evolves

CHICAGO -- Consumers' perception of healthy food is changing as they become more health conscious, according to Technomic's new Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. They strongly associate contemporary definitions of health with local, natural, organic and sustainable food and drink, but also balance better-for-you food choices with occasional indulgences.

"More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important," stated 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."

Other findings of the report, which aims to help foodservice executives better understand consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding healthy eating, include:

  • Sixty-four percent of today's consumers agree that it is important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition, an increase from 57 percent in 2010.
  • Half of today's consumers report that they eat healthy food to have a nutritious and balanced diet.
  • Half of consumers would like it if restaurants offered more healthy foods, and nearly as many state they would probably order such options if they became available.
  • Thirty-eight percent state they are more likely to visit restaurants that offer healthy menu options, even if they do not order a better-for-you item, up from 33 percent in 2010.
  • More consumers polled today than in 2010 report consuming local, organic, natural and sustainable foods at a minimum of once a week.
  • Half of consumers state that item descriptors such as descriptors such as low salt, low fat and low sugar clearly signal health, but detract from the taste. However, items that indicate a full serving of fruit or vegetables, or are 100 percent whole wheat, highlight health while strongly enhancing consumers' taste perceptions.

The Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report is a comprehensive study exploring healthy dining and health-attribute purchase drivers, and provides information on today's developments around how healthy food and beverage offerings are being promoted on menus to appeal to health-conscious consumers, according to Technomic. The Menu Insights section uses exclusive MenuMonitor data, while the Consumer Insights section looks at consumer definitions, usage, purchasing behavior and preferences for healthy dining occasions based on an exclusive survey of 1,500 consumers.

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