The Pressure Cooker: Government Puts Pressure on Foodservice Operators


Government continues to encourage healthy, light foodservice fare

The pressure is on. Government watchdogs and special interest groups are challenging the foodservice industry to encourage healthy eating at restaurants and schools.

The good news is NPD data shows some consumers are already moving in the right direction. During the past five years, foods high in sugar or fat — such as regular carbonated soft drinks, pizza, french fries, fried chicken and dessert items — have been ordered less often at restaurants. Simultaneously, foods lower in sugar and fat are being ordered more often — consider the popularity of wraps, grilled chicken sandwiches, smoothies, Asian main dishes, deli meat sandwiches and non-fried chicken.


Slow and Steady

Even without nutritional labelling legislation, behavioural shifts are underway as more and more operators offer “good-for-you” menu options. Nonetheless, the pressure from various groups, and Ottawa, continues to mount, with restaurant menu regulations being touted as the answer to overcoming health problems associated with obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.

In Denmark, a hefty “fat tax” has been slapped on a number of unhealthy foods. The new levy, designed to limit the population’s intake of fatty foods, will add almost $3 for every 2.2 pounds of saturated fat. In other words, the price of a burger may increase by about 15 cents.


Know they Customer

To be well positioned for growth, operators should address the needs of tomorrow’s consumer. Menu planning can be part of that, but first it’s important to determine which consumers are health-conscious. Older consumers are most likely to factor in the availability of healthy, light offerings when choosing a restaurant. But, younger adults and teens may be described as more health-conscious than middle-aged consumers aged 35 to 54.

Today, the most prevalent buyers of healthy, light sandwiches are consumers aged 13 to 24. However, it is expected consumers 55 and older will contribute the most incremental servings in the years ahead — they are the most health-conscious consumer segment. New products added to  menus should aim to address aging baby boomers’ interest in and need for health-conscious choices.


Full Steam Ahead

Understanding the trends, and offering more healthy, light menu options, could help reduce the need for legislation and government intervention in Canada. But, either way, such knowledge will prepare operators to share in the anticipated growth of healthy, light foods over the next decade.

If fresh, tasty, affordable menu options are developed to appeal to those who will drive demand, the outcome will be a win-win for consumers and operators alike.

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