Diners want whole grains, other healthier options

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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CHICAGO — A majority of consumers (68%) said they "very likely" would order whole wheat bread at restaurants if it were offered, according to a recent survey performed by Opinion Dynamics Corp. About 70% said they "very likely" would order meat that is baked or broiled, not fried, if it were offered at restaurants.

Lawrence Shiman, vice-president of Opinion Dynamics Corp., gave the 2-week-old results of the survey May 20 in his presentation "The Nutritional Concerns of the American Consumer" at the 2006 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Each Opinion Dynamics Corp. telephone survey has a sample size of 1,000 national consumers.

Mr. Shiman said restaurant customers under age 30 especially are seeking whole grain bread. Whole grain requests in restaurants are "going through the roof" in California, Oregon and Washington, Mr. Shiman said. Selling whole grain bread at restaurants may prove more difficult than selling it at the retail level, he said. White bread options, such as baguettes, give restaurant customers more of a motive to indulge than the white bread options at retail.

"Whole grain is picking up steam," Mr. Shiman said. "I don’t think it’s cresting by any means." In other survey findings, 59% said they likely would order reducedportion sizes at restaurants if they were offered, 52% said they very likely would try reducedfat dressing, 48% said they very likely would try extra-thin pizza crusts, and 36% said they would be much more likely to try organic items if they were offered at restaurants. Customers in California, Oregon and Washington especially wanted organic options.

When asked what steps they are taking to eat healthier at restaurants, 18% of the people who have changed their diets in the past year said they are eating more salads. That strategy was followed by eating more boiled, steamed, baked and grilled products (10%), eating less fat (10%), eating more vegetables (9%), choosing from the healthy category on the menu (5%), eating smaller portions (5%), drinking more water (5%), eating more fish (4%) and eating fewer carbohydrates (4%).

When asked what changes they would like to see restaurants make to emphasize healthy consumption, 10% of the people who have changed their diets in the past year said they would like to see restaurants give the option of ordering smaller portions. That answer was followed by putting healthy notations on the menu (8%), offering more baked and grilled items and less fried items (8%), adding ingredient information on the menu (5%), offering items with less fat (3%), offering more vegetable options (3%), using less fatty oils (3%), offering more salads (3%) and offering more lower-priced healthy options (2%).

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