NPD: Americans Eating Healthier at Restaurants

CHICAGO -- As lawmakers move in various ways to legislate healthier eating in the United States, it appears that Americans are beating them to the punch. According to new foodservice research by market research company, The NPD Group, foods high in sugar content or fat have been ordered less frequently at restaurants over the past 10 years.

NPD’s CREST service, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice, found a decrease in consumption of regular carbonated soft drinks, hot dogs, fried chicken and French fries. Simultaneously, some foods that could be considered healthier (lower in sugar and fat) have been ordered more than in the past, NPD noted.

According to CREST, these foods include milk, grilled chicken and grilled chicken sandwiches, non-fried fish, breakfast cereals, fruit and yogurt.

"This shift in consumers choosing healthier foods at restaurants is partially due to the increasing availability of healthier foods on restaurant menus," Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at The NPD Group, said in a statement released yesterday. "Restaurant operators are responding to their customers’ needs for healthier or lighter foods."

Consumer demand for healthy/light foods at restaurants will continue to grow over the next decade, according to NPD’s "A Look into the Future of Foodservice" report. This report provides forecasts for the next decade in terms of restaurant segments, categories, visit situations, and specific beverage and food products.

Servings of healthy/light sandwiches -- one of the food groups under the healthy/light category studied for the report -- are projected to grow by 13 percent over the next 10 years. Included in the healthy/light sandwich group are grilled chicken and fish, turkey, cold cut combos, tuna and chicken salad and veggie sandwiches, according to the research company.

"Today, the heaviest buyers of healthy/light sandwiches are consumers ages 18 to 34," Riggs stated. "However, it is consumers 50 and older, who are the most health-conscious consumer segment, who will contribute the most incremental servings in the years ahead."

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