CHICAGO – Ever wonder what’s in your food? Consumers have been asking that question much more in recent years as the food industry has been shaken by food scandals, including questions of transparency in food preparation and the treatment of animals.
Consequently, restaurants are focusing their attention on using a greater number and wider variety of menu claims that reflect trending food concerns in hopes of regaining consumers’ trust.
“Organic” is still the most-used claim on restaurant menus, yet according to Mintel Menu Insights, its usage declined 28 percent between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2013.
"The reality is that organic foods are quite expensive and consumers are looking for alternative claims to help them determine what other types of menu items are safe and of good quality to eat,” said Julia Gallo-Torres, Mintel category manager. “Tying into this, we are seeing a return to tried-and-true, traditional preparations, signaled by claims tied to classic, original, homemade, etc.”
The claim “made from scratch” contributed 10 percent to the overall growth of all restaurant menu claims, as consumers search for food that is representative of being homemade. Consumers are also looking for claims such as “original recipe,” “freshly-picked,” “farmstead,” and “farm style.” Even the claim “signature” as an ingredient grew 34 percent between Q4 2010 and Q4 2013.
"Gluten free” is another claim appearing more frequently on menus. During the same timeframe, “gluten free” usage posted a 200-percent increase and accounted for 40 percent of the total growth in ingredient nutritional claims on menus, according to Mintel Menu Insights.
Additionally, nutritional claims increased by 14 percent and geographic claims increased 12 percent.
"Many Americans look to menu information to eat better and healthier. “Nutritional claims signal that certain foods can contribute to general health. In terms of geographic claims, consumers are seeking dining experiences that are more authentic and these claims also can convey a healthier presentation," Gallo-Torres continued. "…Consumers will continue to look to menus for guidance on what to eat.”
Mintel is a global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence. Mintel Menu Insights tracks and analyzes trends on a daily basis from more than 2,500 menus and 1.5 million items.