Forty percent of consumers say their definition of health has changed over the past two years — and that definition is driving their choices of food and beverage, according to Technomic Inc.’s 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Consumers are increasingly ordering menu items that meet that personal definition of health, such as food described as natural, organic, high in protein, sustainably sourced or functional.

“The food service landscape will become more competitive when it comes to tastier, more innovative healthy menu offerings,” said Maia Chang, senior research analyst at Technomic. “This means that more brands will face additional pressure to differentiate through transparency and preparation techniques, as well as brand and sourcing stories.”

Calorie counts are still a concern for some consumers. Despite abiding by their own health definitions, consumers may still reconsider their restaurant orders if the item contains too many calories, Technomic said. Sixty-six per cent look for calorie counts on restaurant menus at least some of the time.

“Consumers are increasingly taking on a more personalized, holistic view of health,” Technomic said. These views have implications for restaurant operators, especially as some restaurants are now required to post calorie counts and consumers increasingly rely on food service for meals.”

Restaurateurs may meet this desire for lower-calorie options with menu items featuring vegetables instead of carbohydrate-rich items, such as cauliflower pizza crust and zucchini noodles. Forty-five per cent of consumers say they would be very likely to order healthier options at restaurants if they were offered, Technomic said.

In convenience stores, operators must focus on freshness and quality to meet consumers’ evolving definition of health.

“To fully capitalize on food service opportunities, brands must address consumers’ lingering concerns about the quality and freshness of prepared foods and beverages at c-stores,” said Charles Winship, senior research analyst of consumer insights at Technomic. “The most reliable way for c-stores to convey quality and freshness is by utilizing real ingredients and leveraging transparency so consumers know how, when and where items are prepared.”