Dining Trends: Healthy = Quality, Not Calories

Americans are looking for more healthful options at restaurants and other foodservice outlets, but define healthy eating based on quality features rather than fewer calories, according to a recent foodservice market research report by The NPD Group.

A significant share of foodservice traffic is driven by healthy eating behaviors, so finds the “Consumers Define Healthy Eating When They Go Out to Eat” report, with the most important feature for consumers seeking healthy menu options being quality, such as fresh, natural, and nutritious ingredients. Fewer calories were among the least important features.

“Typically, the perception has been that healthy eating to consumers means low calorie and low fat, and our findings show that the perception is not the reality,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. “Clearly, descriptors like fresh or natural will resonate more with consumers more than less calories.”

In addition to defining healthy eating, the report also addresses consumer attitudes about the importance of taste, which diners place a high importance on, regardless of whether they are eating healthy or not -- with some consumers equating healthier foods as not being as tasty. Further, the majority of consumers expect to pay the same for healthier foods as for those considered less healthy.

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