Although “healthy” means different things to different consumers, for restaurant goers, it often means natural ingredients.
According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, 61% of consumers say they look for natural ingredients when they want to order healthy items, compared to 39% who look for low-calorie items, and 35% who look for organic ingredients.
In short, natural ingredients such as sweeteners and colors are far preferred to artificial ones, making them a growing area of opportunity for operators.
Eliminating the artificial
Operator strategies for catering to consumer preferences are shifting, and some chains and restaurants are making the move to eliminate artificial colors, instead using colors coming from natural sources.
So-called clean ingredients are perceived as being healthier, and offering non-artificial ingredients is becoming more common—for instance, Panera Bread® has eliminated all artificial additives, and chains such as Taco Bell and Papa John’s have removed artificial colors and flavors from their menu items as well.
Creating eye-catching dishes
Some restaurants, such as Arun’s Thai Restaurant in Chicago, use natural dyes to enhance the look and presentation of dishes. The fine-dining spot serves an appetizer featuring Siamese vermicelli noodles dyed with red beets, and the restaurant says the appetizer is one of its most popular.
“Food dyeing is not something new; it has been a traditional Thai method to make food look more attractive to the eyes,” says chef Arun Sampanthavivat. “The first reaction from customers is always a good surprise, and it’s part of the memorable dining experience, which is especially important for fine dining.”
Arun’s also uses turmeric for bright yellow curries, as well as pandanus leaves for hint of green color in custards.
In fact, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report, natural health claims on fine-dining menus have grown 14% during the past year, so operators have the opportunity to create beautiful dishes, and at the same time, harness consumer attention.
Beyond looking pretty, however, natural food dyes and other natural ingredients can also increase check averages. According to the Technomic report, 43% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase and are willing to pay more for natural fare, so natural-ingredient dishes can be sold at a premium. Along with other natural ingredients, such as natural flavors and sweeteners, natural colors can have a big impact on sales, as well—82% of operators say that natural ingredients have an impact on increasing traffic and sales, with 43% saying it has a large affect.
Sampanthavivat agrees, and says, “Of course, any natural plant or herbs are superior to any artificial products, especially those consumed—back to nature is what people yearn for.”
Chr. Hansen Natural Colors is the only provider of natural colors that combines 140 years of unique application and regulatory expertise with a strong global presence and the widest natural color portfolio in the industry. We are experts at helping companies convert to and utilize natural colors.
This post is sponsored by Chr. Hansen