NPD Report: Consumers looking for quality healthy options, won’t pay more for healthy items

Seventy percent of adults over 50 say they won't pay more for healthy options.

"Calories aren't the main priority for diners who are looking for healthy options when they eat out," Riggs says. "We found through our research that quality, as in fresh, natural and nutritious, is the most important healthy eating attribute when they dine out."

Posting calories on menus did have an effect on the order of foods that were already decreasing in purchases—items such as french fries, carbonated soft drinks, one-third-pound hamburgers, shakes and smoothies, onion rings and some chicken sandwiches. The report found that menus with calories posted increased orders for other foods, such as regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers, diet carbonated soft drinks, salads without dressing and grilled chicken wraps.

Menus with calorie shown also affected how much consumers spent. Average checks for lunch and dinner declined slightly, from $6.40 when calories were not posted to $6.20 when calories were posted, which Riggs explained could be the result of ordering smaller portion sizes, such as french fries.

When consumers are looking for healthier options, quality is the most important factor, rather than calorie counts, according to the report.

The report found the feature most important to consumers seeking healthy menu options is quality, such as fresh, natural and nutritious ingredients. Fewer calories were among the least important features.

“Typically the perception has been that healthy eating to consumers means low calorie and low fat, and our findings show that the perception is not the reality,” Riggs says in the press release. “Clearly, descriptors like fresh or natural will resonate more with consumers than less calories.”

The report offered a definition of healthy eating and addressed consumer attitudes about the importance of taste. Taste has high importance regardless if consumers are eating healthier items or not, according to the report. Also, some consumers still don’t think healthy food is tasty.

"Understanding these trends provides foodservice operators and manufacturers with the opportunity to offer products that meet consumers' needs for healthier options," says Riggs. "More consumers are seeking healthy/light foods and having these options available on menus will meet these consumers' needs; however, healthful menu options must be fresh, taste good and be affordably priced."

For the full report, visit NPD's website.

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