Foodservice innovation focuses on demand for healthy, ethical food

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: iStock
Pic: iStock

Related tags: out-of-home, Foodservice, Restaurant

Foodservice operators developing menus that are nutritious and ethical are well placed to capitalise on emerging consumer trends in these areas, according to experts.

IRI data reveals that around one-in-five of all meals eaten in Europe are consumed outside the home. A report from IRI GIRA Foodservice suggests this is due to increasingly flexible menu options that cater to a wide range of meal occasions, from breakfast to fine dining, alongside demographic changes such as a more fluid family structure.

Navigating nutrition out-of-home

As consumers opt to eat-out more frequently and the contribution of foodservice menus to overall food intake increases, the sector is coming under mounting pressure to provide better-for-you options that also deliver on taste.

According to new pan-European research from Kerry Taste & Nutrition, 81% of people trying to improve their diet believe that foodservice operators have a responsibility to improve nutrition on their menus.

“People are eating out more frequently and demanding healthy options that don’t compromise on taste. The foodservice industry is also being challenged by public health bodies to address this demand with nutritional improvements to menus,”​ Karl Buiks, vice president for foodservice, marketing & strategic planning at Kerry, said.

Kerry, the Irish ingredients supplier, hosted an event in London last week where the nutritional credentials of foodservice operators were put in the spotlight. For what Kerry said was the ‘first time’, the closed-door conference enabled ‘information sharing and collaboration’ between major food service operators, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Sodexo and Greggs.

Kerry’s consumer research identified a number of trends that the supplier believes foodservice operators need to reflect in their menu innovation. Examining consumer attitudes, the group said there needs to be a ‘specific focus’ on transparent menu labelling and natural ingredients.

The company’s consumer survey revealed 35% of people rate the use of ‘natural’ ingredients as ‘the most important nutritional claim', while six in ten people want menus to be more transparent by including nutritional information such as calorie, fat and sugar content.

A significant proportion – 43% of consumers – are interested in the reduced sugar trend. Fifty-seven percent are looking for low sugar options and 53% said they also want no added sugar beverages. Interestingly, 41% of respondents said they view real fruit as a ‘key beverage health attribute’.

But its not just about improving the health of products – this must be achieved without sacrificing signature taste profiles, Kerry noted. 

Ethical attitudes and healthy eating out

Sustainable consumerism is another trend gaining traction throughout the European food sector. And, according to professional services network KPMG, this has become ‘a major influence’ on the catering and out-of-home space.

People are increasingly deciding whether to purchase a product based on ethical and environmental criteria as well as health concerns. A recent survey taking in data from Paymentsense’s UK customer base of over 70,000 businesses, plus interviews with 350 restaurant owners and 2,085 consumers, highlighted the growing importance of these twin purchase drivers.

Ethical considerations are ranked as important by 66% of the population, with local produce, supply chain transparency and organic all flagged as areas of interest. At the same time, 71% of consumers suggested they want healthy food options on the menu.

For many consumers, the plant-based boom is an area where health and sustainability considerations collide.

Growth of chains like Farmstand, which specialises in plant-based products, stands as testament to increasing demand. The company’s plant-based and sustainably sourced menu and zero-waste philosophy is hitting a mark with London consumers and the firm has an ambition to grow to a 1,000 canteens around the world.

"We don't want to tell people what to do [on sustainable eating], but we do want to give them the opportunity to do the right thing,”​ CEO Steven Novick explained.

If Novick’s ambitions suggest that plant-based out-of-home eating is moving mainstream, the success of Gregg’s vegan sausage stands as proof positive that vegan menus are no-longer an oddity. Launched last year, the bakery chain said its vegan sausage roll helped it achieve a 13.5% increase in sales during 2019.

The company said it has seen ‘huge popularity’ of its ‘now-iconic’ vegan friendly sausage roll. The strong results prompted the group to extend its vegan menu last month with the addition of a vegan ‘steak’ bake and its first vegan doughnut.

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