Despite increased buzz about healthy dining and restaurant nutrition labeling, healthy menu items still face a tough battle for acceptance, with only 51% of US restaurant patrons reporting they order healthy restaurant meals, according to a survey from Mintel. Menu Insights.
Though three-quarters of US adults surveyed claim they’d like to see more healthy items on the menu and more menu transparency about food content, only one in five (20%) rank food health as an important factor when ordering dinner. Instead, taste (77%) and hunger satisfaction (44%), are significantly more important:
“There’s definitely a dichotomy between what people say they want and what they actually do when it comes to healthy restaurant eating,” said Director of Mintel Menu Insights, Maria Caranfa. “More than eight in 10 adults told us it’s very or somewhat important to them to eat healthy, but when it comes to dining out, most people are really looking for taste, texture and experience.”
Price Remains Deterrent
Price also remains a deterrent to healthy restaurant eating, especially as the economy weighs down people’s finances. More than half of survey respondents (54%) say eating healthy at restaurants is more expensive than not eating healthy. Caranfa agreed, noting that the prices of healthy menu items are often higher and less promoted.
Anti-Health Items Rule
Although restaurants overall are creating more nutritious food and drink, Mintel noted that so-called healthy items are still dwarfed by regular, sometimes anti-health, menu items. Mintel Menu Insights found that during Q109, only 5% of new items carried a nutritional claim. But nearly one in five new food items was fried.
“Restaurants need to make healthy food appeal on flavor, freshness and satiety benefits, not just on calorie and fat information,” said Caranfa. “People seek fresh ingredients and more vegetables in healthy food, both of which can be promoted in a positive way. Healthy dining should be as satisfying as ordering from the regular menu.”