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How to differentiate with clean-label options

Clean eating is not just a passing phase. While many consumers focus on clean eating at home, diners are increasingly interested in meals that include all-natural ingredients when they’re eating out as well. Restaurant operators should consider offering clean-eating options on their menus to appeal to a wide range of customers.

Why the clean eating trend is so important for restaurants

Consumers have a growing awareness of how food is sourced, and they want quality, fresh ingredients. The demand for organic, preservative-free and unprocessed food is not limited to what people are making for themselves at home–this trend is changing the foodservice industry as well.  

Consumers are seeking out these items on menus, and they feel that clean foods taste better than those that are processed. Diners associate these foods with being more healthful, too. In fact, according to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating report, 87% of consumers connect freshness with health.

Not only do consumers think all-natural, unprocessed food tastes better, but they have expressed a willingness to pay more in the past few years, which can be a big opportunity for operators. Technomic’s Healthy Eating report finds that consumers are attracted to menu items with certain key descriptors, with 80% willing to pay more for natural foods, 72% willing to pay more for unprocessed foods and 71% willing to pay more for preservative-free foods.  

How to implement clean eating for your brand

Since the clean eating trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, some operators may wonder how to implement more natural ingredients. The first step is defining what clean eating will mean for the brand, which may be a gradual change. Is the restaurant going to overhaul the entire menu or just change the ingredients in certain dishes? If operators are going to make claims that certain items are organic or all-natural, they need to be able to substantiate them.

In some cases, operators may be able to swap out current ingredients for more natural or organic substitutes. Since clean eating centers on unprocessed items, including dishes on the menu that are entirely organic or preservative-free may appeal to health-conscious consumers. It may not be possible to completely overhaul the menu all at once.

Regardless of the approach to implementing clean eating for your restaurant, all items that feature organic ingredients must be clearly labeled on the menu and otherwise communicated to the customer. This isn’t limited to just clean eating. Operators can label gluten-free, locally grown, or sustainably harvested items as well to appeal to consumers who are interested in how their food is sourced or who have specific dietary concerns. Using a design element to draw attention to these items can help diners take notice.

Putting clean-eating tendencies to the test

As consumers become increasingly health conscious and express a preference for clean eating, menu transparency is key. Calling out healthful items brings more attention to certain dishes and creates more appeal with customers, which contributes not only to a potential for a boost in sales, but also a boost in brand reputation.

This post is sponsored by Litehouse Foodservice

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