New Mintel research finds that more often than not, diners eat with their eyes, not their stomachs, as about 38 percent of adults agree that if a healthy menu item sounds tasty in the menu description, they are more likely to order it.
Moreover, some 27 percent of consumers say they like to order healthy meals that have ingredients with which they are familiar. According to Katrina Fajardo, foodservice analyst at Mintel, "For consumers who are often on the fence for healthy or indulgent eating, familiarity can help ease them into healthier choices, rather than alienating them with superfoods they have not heard of or have a reputation for lackluster taste."
As for how Americans define healthy dining, 9 percent agree a menu item that includes a gluten-free mention denotes a healthy choice, down from 10 percent last year, and 39 percent think entrées with more fruits and vegetables come across as healthy.
Meanwhile, 37 percent believe an item with a low calorie count is a healthy option and 34 percent think a dish with less sodium is considered healthy.
"One of the possible reasons for consumers' indecisiveness on healthy foods in foodservice is the fact that foodservice still has the stigma of being unhealthy, regardless of what is ordered," Fajardo says. "However, if the menu items are described well, and are made with familiar items, it could help entice customers who are seeking a healthy meal."
Nearly one out of every four U.S. consumer (24 percent) is not interested in eating healthfully when she goes out to eat, because she views away-from-home visits as a treat. Similarly, about a quarter of consumers (24 percent) say they look at the more healthy options, but opt for the unhealthy meals instead.
"While this may sound like operators don't necessarily need to pander toward the health-minded visitors, there is still a sizeable number of consumers who are willing to purchase healthy foods," Fajardo concludes. "Operators who do not have a foundation in healthy offerings should continue to offer their traditional fare, but create menu items that are either lower-calorie items, customized versions of main meals, or add locally-sourced or organic ingredients to items in order to boost consumer's perceptions of health on the menu without needing a full menu overhaul."