How Shifting Health Priorities Will Change Foodservice in 2016

Per tradition, health is a foremost consideration in the New Year. But it’s not just in January that consumers are prioritizing foodservice health. Consumers are increasingly concerned about transparency—what’s in their food and where it came from—and operators and suppliers are feeling the heat.

Technomic called out modernization of the supply chain as a 2016 trend to watch, and much of our recent data underscores why this is so vital right now. These concerns largely surround health-halo attributes, from additive-free to animal-welfare claims. Shifting consumer perspectives on health include:

  • Transparency. Nearly nine in 10 consumers (86%) would like restaurants to be more transparent about what’s in their food. This trend speaks to clean labeling, as well as partnership and sourcing transparency. In fact, 82% of operators agree that clean labels will have a great or moderate influence on purchasing decisions in the future.
  • Additives. Clean eating continues to influence the foodservice industry; 40% of consumers are more concerned about additives in their food now than they were two years ago. Several chains, such as Panera Bread and Pizza Hut, have responded by removing additives from the menu.
  • Animal welfare. Cage-free is particularly important right now; 47% of consumers said they are more likely to order dishes made from cage-free eggs or poultry during breakfast dine-out occasions. McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts both announced that they would use only cage-free eggs by 2025, and Taco Bell is moving to cage-free eggs in all of its locations by the end of 2016. Moreover, Wendy’s first supplier code of conduct takes effect this month, mandating how animals should be raised and slaughtered and eliminating the use of pig gestation crates by 2022.
  • Local. More than three-fifths (62%) of consumers say they would be more likely to purchase locally sourced food or beverages, and 26% would pay at least slightly more for items that carry this claim. Local-food consumption has increased over the past five years as well, with 53% of consumers eating locally sourced food at least once a week, compared to 47% in 2010.
  • Sustainability. The majority of consumers (52%) indicate that using sustainable foods creates a good value at foodservice locations. Further, 46% of college and university students say that it is important for foodservice to be socially and environmentally responsible, up from 37% in 2013. Only 28% of consumers feel the foodservice industry is properly addressing sustainability issues.

AS I SEE IT, we can expect to see a proliferation of chains in 2016, limited- and full-service alike, making sweeping menu changes to accommodate these aforementioned claims. At the very least, chains will offer a few items on the menu that meet these needs, such as a natural, cage-free chicken sandwich. In order to maximize their operators’ business and meet these shifting consumer demands, suppliers should invest in modernizing their manufacturing and distribution systems. Changes should be made with care not to jeopardize food safety, the topmost health priority of all.

Note: This content originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Technomic’s Foodservice Digest newsletter

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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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