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Cracking the Code on Healthy Fast Food

It’s the eternal quest: Better-for-you food that doesn’t taste like paper napkins. Today, health and environmental concerns are shifting America’s culinary identity away from burgers and fries and toward field greens and line-caught salmon tossed in cilantro-lime vinaigrette, reported the New Yorker in November 2015.

LYFE Kitchen, Sweetgreen, Chipotle and Dig Inn are part of a new breed of fast casual restaurants providing quick, healthful gourmet meals without breaking the bank. These brands understand that consumers are taking a wider view of better health–one that includes high-quality calories, more peace of mind and other feel-good attributes. Meanwhile, traditional fast-food brands struggle with the perception that they churn out overly processed foods.

Grocerants can benefit from this new mindset, says Christopher Brace, founder and CEO of New York-based Shopper Intelligence, who points out that grocery stores and grocerants have an advantage over restaurants when it comes to emotional appeal. Nothing pulls at the heartstrings like the image of a family gathered around the table for a healthful meal–and that’s what prepared foods can provide.

According to Brace, research shows that the family table has the power to make children smarter, better adjusted and healthier. He encourages grocerant professionals to “own” these good-for-you attributes. The family table triggers positive emotional decision drivers in a way that a takeout box can’t, no matter how healthy the food inside might be, he says.

“We all eat a fixed number of meals and a fixed amount of food every day,” says Brace. “The entire food industry is competing for that same fixed number, but grocerants can win [by] providing quick ways back to the family table.”

Grocerant-Ready Ideas

  • Prepared proteins cross-merchandised with packaged specialty sauces, brown-and-serve bread and pre-cut veggies so families can “cook” together
  • Leftover suggestions for rotisserie chickens and cooked turkey breasts
  • Encouraging shoppers to mix and match a protein with three side salads for a healthier family meal at a fixed price
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