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How Healthy Eating is Evolving

Health remains a hot topic of discussion in Canadian foodservice. While some may think there is already an abundance of healthy foods and beverages in Canada, Technomic’s recently published Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report reveals that consumers continue to demand healthful items. However, their behaviour and attitudes toward healthy eating are evolving.

Over the past few years, Canadian operators and suppliers have been responding to consumers’ heightened focus on health by offering better-for-you options. In fact, Technomic’s MenuMonitor shows healthy items have increased on Top 250 Canadian restaurant menus by an astounding 124 percent over the past four years. Notably, growth has primarily been driven by options with “gluten-free,” “vegetarian,” “healthy” and “organic” callouts.

Clean Eating

At the same, we are noticing growth in clean ingredients—the next level of fresh, natural fare—on restaurant menus. Natural sugar alternatives are replacing artificial sweeteners. Operators are developing cleaner items without artificial ingredients in response to consumers’ preference for health-halo claims like “real” over traditional health claims, such as “sugar-free” or “nonfat.”

Some chains are stressing that their natural fare is free of artificial additives; others are creating new or revamped items without any artificial ingredients, hormones or antibiotics. Below are just a few examples of ways chains are offering healthy fare with clean ingredients.

  • A&W Canada advertises how its burger beef is made from cattle raised without added growth hormones or steroids.
  • At emerging chain Liquid Nutrition, the Pure Smoothie is made with apple juice, beet, strawberry, banana, honey and spirulina.
  • As of summer 2014, 100% of the fish in McDonald’s CanadaFilet-O-Fish is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Several operators and manufacturers are joining the clean eating trend, likely because clean ingredients can help increase incremental sales and cheque averages. In fact, Technomic’s Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows that compared to other claims measured, consumers say they are more likely to purchase and are willing to pay more for hormone-, preservative- and antibiotic-free fare.

Heathly Fare: Definitions & Taste

While operators and manufacturers are finding ways to respond to the demand for healthy fare, it is important to keep in mind that health definitions vary. The recent study confirms that to some, health is about nutrition, while to others, it is about sourcing.

Understanding how core customers define health can help narrow down possibilities for menu and/or product development. For example, different health callouts resonate with different demographic groups: health-halo descriptors such as natural and sustainable will likely appeal to Millennials, whereas Matures will likely respond better to traditional health claims, such as low sugar and low sodium.

Additionally, when it comes to creating better-for-you fare, taste is becoming increasingly important and should not be overlooked, since consumers have little desire to compromise on taste.


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