Do Consumers Care About Calories in Alcohol?

Come December, consumers may get a shock when perusing restaurant drink menus for their holiday toast. The Food and Drug Administration regulations requiring calorie information to be presented on adult beverage menus in foodservice concepts operating in 20 or more locations go into effect December 1. Will this information cause patrons to rethink that drink order?

Technomic research finds that calorie information on food menus is likely to influence orders for about three in 10 consumers. Those consumers say they may order something healthier (61%), fewer items (45%) or smaller portions (40%), and some will opt for a restaurant offering more low-calorie selections (45%), according to a consumer survey on menu information fielded in December.

Fewer consumers indicate they’d change their behavior when faced with alcohol drink calorie counts. Less than two in 10 say they would consider calories when ordering a drink in a restaurant or other on-premise location, and a similar portion indicate calorie content would influence their decision of whether to even order a drink or what type of drink they’d select.

Of those who indicated the calorie count information would affect their order, two-fifths say they would order only one drink (39%), and a third would select a low-calorie drink (35%) or water (35%). One-quarter of calorie-conscious consumers say they would order a smaller serving size (24%).

Bottom line: Nearly half (45%) of consumers say they don’t think about or are not at all concerned about calories when ordering drinks in restaurants and bars. The alcohol occasion is often about socializing, relaxing and enhancing the dining experience, and many consumers view it as an acceptable indulgence for which they’re willing to accept the higher calories. But some consumers may experience sticker shock when faced with the caloric content of a piña colada, margarita or their favorite craft beer or wine.

In this new age of transparency and increased regulation, foodservice operators would do well to approach drink menu development with both consumers in mind and prepare for some adjustments in purchase behaviors.

This post is part of a series about alcohol calorie information on foodservice menus, including the basics on the new regulations and how operators can partner with suppliers to comply.

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Darren Tristano

Darren Tristano is President of Technomic Inc. Since 1993, he has led the development of Technomic’s Information Services division and directed multiple aspects of the firm’s operations.

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