Will Customers Change Eating Habits with New Calorie Count Law?

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Several major restaurant chains are already or will be posting calories on menus, ahead of the national menu labeling law, but will consumers eat low-calorie restaurant foods? According to The NPD Group foodservice market research:

  • Only nine percent of consumers are looking to eat healthful when they dine out, according to NPD’s CREST service, which continually tracks how consumers use restaurants . When consumers eat out, they want to indulge and leave concerns about which foods are low fat, low calorie and low sodium at home. And in tough economic times, price concerns outweigh health concerns when it comes to eating out.
  • NPD conducted a menu labeling test among adults ages 18 and older. Panelists were asked to indicate items they would order from two versions of a typical fast food hamburger restaurant menu. Their first exposure was to a typical menu board without calorie information.Their second exposure was to the same menu board, but with calorie counts shown alongside the price of each item.The before and after ordering patterns were then compared. After viewing the menu with the calories posted, consumers ordered items that amounted to fewer calories, but the difference in calories was relatively small.The study also found that consumers ordered about the same number of items when calories were posted.
  • In asking consumers how they define healthy eating when they dine out among the most important attributes of healthy eating are quality, such as fresh, natural, and nutritious ingredients; well-balanced meals; and smaller portions. 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 the findings show that the perception is not the reality.

Posted by Lauren Grelle

10/12/2012