CHICAGO (PRNewswire) — Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, but their perceptions of what is considered healthy eating at restaurants are also changing. Contemporary definitions of health are strongly associated with local, natural, organic and sustainable food and drink. Additionally, consumers are taking more of a balanced and personal approach to healthy eating—seeking out better-for-you foods, while enjoying occasional indulgences.

"More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important," says Darren Tristano, Vice President of Technomic. "However, there's a shift happening in terms of what actually defines healthy for them. We're seeing more consumers gravitate toward health-halo claims—such as local, natural and organic, as well as whole-wheat and free-range. Operators can leverage this growing interest in the health halo by developing the kinds of menu offerings that can underscore health without detracting from the taste perception."

To help foodservice executives better understand consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding healthy eating, Technomic has developed The Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

  • While most consumers do not follow a specific diet, 81 percent of consumers say that health is a priority for them and they at least try to eat healthy most of the time. Nearly, 10 percent of those who responded, don't follow a diet, but always eat healthfully. While 15 percent try to eat healthfully, but can't or don't. 
  • Of all health-oriented descriptors listed on today's menus, claims of gluten-free are the most prevalent at FSRs and nearly surpass "vegetarian" as the leading health claim at LSRs.
  • More than a third of consumers polled (35 percent) report that they are more likely to visit restaurants that offer healthy options, even if they do not order a better-for-you item.
  • Many claims that are tied to health tend to detract from consumers' taste perceptions, but those that highlight unprocessed, real and fresh attributes signal health while enhancing the taste perception.
  • Health terms that denote low sodium, fat and cholesterol content—as well as terms that highlight a full serving of fruit or vegetables, or 100 percent whole wheat—are highly relevant to consumers' definitions of health; nine out of 10 consumers report that these attributes make food healthier.

Technomic's Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report is a comprehensive study exploring healthy dining and health-attribute purchase drivers. The report provides information on today's developments around how healthy food and beverage offerings are being promoted on menus.

The Menu Insights section uses Technomic's exclusive MenuMonitor data to reveal how restaurants are positioning healthy offerings and using health claims across categories. The report will also provide year-to-year comparison data that will show the growth and decline of various health claims on menus between 2011 and 2012. The Consumer Insights section examines consumer definitions, usage, purchasing behavior and preferences regarding health based on findings from an exclusive survey from 1,000 consumers. Report appendices feature detailed concept and menu profiles for 10 emerging and innovative concepts that focus on health through their overall concept and menu positioning.