Customers continue to demand healthier menu items and operators are accommodating the dining public with a greater number and variety of options. But consumers are now going beyond just calorie counts and nutritional information—they’re seeking “clean” menu items made with real and natural ingredients.
“There’s a growing interest in where food comes from and what it means to eat certain ingredients,” says Maeve Webster, senior director at Datassential, a Chicago-based research firm. “More so than ever before, consumers are focused not just on taste and cost, but how food is made, where it comes from and how it might impact them or their families.”
And the industry is starting to respond to this consumer call for menu items made with real ingredients. Earlier this year, Panera Bread announced that it would remove artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and other additives from its menu by 2016. Operators who menu real and natural ingredients not only appeal to consumers who seek these menu items, but they also can drive sales and boost profits.
Here are a few strategies operators can use for incorporating real ingredients on their menus:
- Focus on the whole picture. Menus should showcase everything an item offers: taste, experience, service and quality of ingredients. “While many consumers say they are willing to pay more for healthy items, they often think ‘regular’ menu items are a better value,” says Webster. “The healthy proposition should just be another benefit of what is otherwise a fantastic and delicious menu item.”
- Accentuate the positive. Webster says that using menu call-outs to highlight items that include real ingredients is a good idea, but operators should focus on words such as “real” or other positive descriptors as opposed to terms like “no,” “low” or “less.” Additionally, operators should be precise about exactly which real or natural ingredients menu items include. “Specific descriptors can be a great deal more impactful because they have a very specific meaning and definition,” says Webster.
This post is sponsored by Kraft Foodservice