Healthy menus – helping Americans eat better without knowing

According to the NPD Group’s 28th annual Eating Patterns in America Report*, Americans are consuming healthier foods then they did ten years ago.

“People are getting a handle on weight gain in this country. We may not yet be losing weight, but we”ve stopped gaining weight. You get a sense that the obesity trend has stabilized,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and author of Eating Patterns in America.

And QSR’s are doing their part to help Americans adhere to a healthier lifestyle – though customers may not even realize it.

Stan Frankenthaler, executive chef at Dunkin’ Brands Group, recently told Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Our biscuit is not the same one it was a year ago,” and customers can’t necessarily tell.  “Restaurants are wanting to do it a little bit behind the scenes,” he told the news source – a stepped approach to reducing salt and sugar in popular prepared food items.

It’s all about the public’s perception – which is why QSR’s, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Au Bon Pain to name a few, don’t want to scare away customers with words like “low calorie” and “diet” with their healthier alternatives.

Instead, they’re implementing small changes like lowering the amount of salt used in Dunkin’ Donuts English muffins, Au Bon Pain’s chicken noodle soup and Subway’s bread recipe. “When you hear less sodium, your mind hears less taste,” says Elizabeth Stewart, Subway’s marketing director. But by gradually changing ingredients over time, the public’s taste can often adjust to the new recipes without ever noticing the alteration.

QSR’s do have an opportunity however to promote these revised recipes – touting the quality of the offerings, rather than using “buzz” words perceived by the public as “dietary.”

“It would benefit foodservice operators to promote the message that eating healthy at restaurants doesn’t always mean giving up your favorite foods,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. Digital menu boards are a great marketing tool for this purpose – allowing you to effectively communicate to your customers the freshness and quality without changing the perception that they might be consuming something “healthy.”

And sometimes that means changing the recipe – without the consumer finding out.

*https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/the-state-of-the-american-diet-americans-eating-more%20fruit-as-obesity-levels-off/