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How fast casuals are going clean label

Whether they’re sitting down to dinner at a five-star restaurant or just grabbing a quick lunch on the way back to the office, a growing number of consumers are seeking out menu items that are considered "clean label." These can be foods that are free of artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, foods that are organic, natural foods and much more.

As a result, cleaner menu items are becoming easier to find in fast-casual concepts.

How do consumers define “clean label”?

When operators look for clean label foods to offer, it’s key to know what ‘clean label’ means to customers so that they can capitalize on the most sought-after claims. To many consumers, clean labels mean healthier food, and 40% say they’re more likely to purchase and are willing to pay more for clean foods, according to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating report.

As far as what clean labels have the most effect on traffic and sales, 89% of LSR and FSR operators say that gluten-free options drive traffic, while 85% say the same about fresh/sourced daily foods and 82% say so about natural ingredients. In other words: Diners want fresh foods that are free of artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives, and more operators are stepping up to the plate.

Clean labels mean more sales

One of the biggest opportunities that operators stand to gain by offering clean label foods is increased traffic and customer loyalty. And it’s not necessarily just for foods such as baked goods free of artificial colors or antibiotic-free proteins. Side dishes and meal add-ons such as potato chips can deliver the same benefits when they’re a clean-label product.

 “When we changed the Miss Vickie’s package graphics [to call out that the chips have no artificial preservatives or flavors], we saw a significant increase in sales,” says Richard Blazevich, senior director of marketing on the Miss Vickie’s brand at Pepsico. “Part of that is probably attributed to that when consumers see the new brand, they see the claim and they’re willing to try it. Once they try it, it’s a really good product, so they’ll repeat on it.”

A win-win situation

Blazevich says he’s seen a positive response from operators as well. “They’re seeing various ‘no artificial’ claims as very much being on trend. Consumers are happy to see items with the ‘no artificial’ claims in establishments, and operators are happy to be partnering with companies who provide products with these claims.”

Some chains that have implemented more clean-label practices include Taco Bell, which has removed artificial colors and flavors from most items and Papa Johns, which has removed artificial colors and flavors and has started using antibiotic-free chicken. Sandwich chains such as Firehouse Subs, Subway and Jersey Mike’s have also begun offering clean-label foods including chips.

When operators and consumers are both happy—operators because of an increase in sales, and consumers because they’re finding the foods they want—everyone wins. With clean label foods becoming more of the standard, operators stand to benefit greatly from getting on board with their offerings.

This post is sponsored by Miss Vickie's

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