Customer Demand for Healthy Food Is Driving Foodservice Innovation


It’s October — the leaves are changing colour, the cool weather is upon us and the summer of 2013 is a fading memory. The arrival of fall brings a sense of renewal and excitement as the kids head back to school and the workplace teems with productivity. But, along with the change of season comes a change in eating habits for millions of Canadians as the transition from backyard barbecues, cottage weekends and patio season marks an end to the indulgent meals of summer.

For many, the generous meals of summer may have resulted in a few unwanted pounds. So, it’s no surprise that healthy eating is top of mind for many Canadians’ this fall, a fact substantiated in key findings from NPD’s recently released annual “Eating Patterns in Canada” report.

According to the 16th edition of the “Eating Patterns in Canada” report — which shows attitudes, behaviours and motivations about Canadians’ eating habits (in home and out of home) — key concerns influencing healthy eating include weight, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The report was designed to find out Canadians’ familiarity with various dietary attributes as they relate to their food choices while also determining whether consumers are willing to pay more for food that represents these attributes.

According to the report, low-calorie food is most commonly incorporated into Canadian eating habits, followed by 100 per cent all-natural and preservative-free products. And, although only 16 per cent of Canadians incorporate gluten-free food into their diets, 70 per cent are familiar with it, making gluten the most recognizable dietary attribute (even though many Canadians are not yet restricting it).

The findings also reveal that most Canadians are indeed willing to spend more money on food that promotes a dietary attribute. They’re “willing” to pay more for foods that feature whole grains, are 100-per-cent natural, have Omega 3 or are antibiotic-free/hormone-free or gluten-free. Canadians indicate they are less willing to pay more for foods that are promoted as peanut-free and Halal.
Clearly, healthy eating trends are shaping restaurant menus across Canada, especially since Canadians’ food knowledge is centred on health, wellness and better-for-you eating habits. During the past 12 months, Canadians consumed 341 million menu items they perceived as better-for-you. In fact, many foodservice chains have caught onto the trend and are focusing on the better-for-you concept: McDonald’s has its signature McWraps, Tim Hortons has its smoothies and Boston Pizza has its gluten-free menu items.

Today, Canadians spend a record $2.8 billion at restaurants offering menu items that they associate with healthy eating. And, it appears that number is going to increase since spending on better-for-you items at restaurants has jumped four per cent annually during the past three years. The bottom line is Canadians want foods associated with healthy eating, so restaurateurs should include a selection of better-for-you items on their menus if they want to capture a piece of the billions associated with this key consumer trend.

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