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Beyond clean ingredients, consumers want menu transparency

Clean eating is no new trend—increasingly, diners are looking for all-natural ingredients: foods free of artificial flavorings and sweeteners that get their bright hues from natural colorings rather than chemical dyes. In fact, nearly half (44%) of consumers say they are deliberately trying to avoid artificial colors/dyes in their daily diet, according to a study from The Hartman Group.

With that in mind, it’s critical for operators to be transparent about how they source the ingredients they use, particularly if those ingredients are all natural.

The case for transparent sourcing

Of consumers that research foodservice brands, 56% of them have stopped visiting a foodservice location or chain because of something they found—negative news reports, unclear sourcing and food ingredients are some of the factors that have caused them to turn away, according to a custom survey for Chr. Hansen in partnership with Technomic. For operators who are putting in the work to ensure ethical, sustainable and healthy food and ingredient sourcing, it’s important to call that out specifically in promo materials as well as on menus.

For instance, if there’s a drink on the menu that’s brightly colored, but the color comes from a fruit extract or a naturally-sourced tint, operators should make note of that on the cocktail menu. According to Technomic’s custom survey done for Chr. Hansen, two-thirds of consumers prefer food coloring to be made with natural ingredients, so if they can tell just by looking at the menu that that’s the case, they may be more likely to indulge.

Cost benefits for operators

Consumer satisfaction matters a lot more than operators might think—in fact, 32% say they would visit a foodservice location less often if natural ingredients aren’t used, while 20% say they will never visit again if that’s the case. Putting aside the benefits of calling out natural ingredients on menus, maintaining a strong, loyal customer base is crucial to a restaurant’s success.

Consumers want transparency—when it’s not called out, they may think it’s because the restaurant has something to hide. Make sure diners know that’s not the case—put a disclaimer or addendum on your restaurant’s advertisements (of LTOs, for instance) and menu that notes that colors, flavors and sweeteners used come from natural sources.

Transparent sourcing and increased sales

When consumers feel like their desires are being met by a restaurant, they’re more likely to keep coming back. In a climate that increasingly calls for clean ingredients and transparent sourcing, restaurant operators stand to benefit from specifically mentioning it.

From appetizers, entrees and desserts that get their intense flavors from natural spices and extracts to drinks and cocktails that draw on natural colors for their bright hues, restaurants stand to gain a lot from using—and calling out—natural ingredients.

This post is sponsored by Chr. Hansen

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