10 facts about the changing fast food industry

by Mindy Weinstein

There is no question that dieting and healthy eating has become a greater topic of conversation in recent years and the fast food industry has taken notice. Eighty-seven percent of fast food operators say their customers are paying more attention to nutrition than they were two years ago (National Restaurant Association).

In the March issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Contributing Editor A. Elizabeth Sloan writes about the increased demand for healthier options on fast food menus.

  1. 60 percent of frequent fast food diners cite healthy menu options among their top reasons for choosing a limited-service restaurant (NRA 2014 Forecast).
  2. Almost one-quarter of adults ordered more healthy fast food items in 2013 than they did in 2012; in addition people ages 18-34 were more likely to do so (Mintel 2013 Quick Service Restaurants—U.S. report).
  3. 89 percent of diners stated "fresh" is the menu descriptor that best conveys health in . Other terms such as "real," "handmade" and "never frozen" also signal health. (Mintel's 2013 Healthy Dining Trends).
  4. The 400-600 calorie range received the most votes for an acceptable level of calories in a healthy fast food meal; only 3 percent of those surveyed see menu items with more than 1,000 calories as healthy (Mintel).
  5. Only 13 percent of consumers are regularly counting calories (FMI Shopping Healthy Survey, 2013).
  6. More than one-third of parents feel that restaurants do not offer enough healthy breakfast choices for kids (Technomic Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, 2013).
  7. Foodservice operators ranked gluten-free as the top menu trend and healthful kids' meals were second. Other hot trends included: fruit/vegetable sides, locally sourced protein/meat/seafood, low-fat milk/100 percent juice, organic items, grain-based salads, and snack-sized offerings (NRA's 2014 Forecast).
  8. Fresher/better-for-you dominated the list of fastest-growing menu items in 2013, and products perceived as indulgent or unhealthful (e.g. chicken nuggets, French fries, pies, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and hash browns) were among the poorest performers (NPD/CREST).
  9. Healthy/light sandwiches are projected to enjoy strong growth through 2022; turkey sausage and egg whites continue to gain ground in the breakfast department (NPD Group The Future of Foodservice Report, 2013).
  10. Diet, carbonated soft drinks are giving way to flavored/enhanced waters, teas, and hand-squeezed fruit drinks (NPD/CREST).

Related Stories

Fast food menus still pack a lot of calories, study finds

date Nov 13, 2012

With grilled chicken, salads and oatmeal now on fast food menus, you might think fast food has become healthier. And indeed, there has been greater attention in the media and legislatively, paid to the healthfulness of fast ...

Fighting obesity with apps and websites

date Aug 19, 2013

A pending component of health care reform would require restaurants and vending machines to list calorie information on menus to help fight obesity.

Recommended for you

Soldiers cite 'Medic!' as a top hearing priority

date 1 hour ago

'Medic!', 'Hold fire!' and grid references are amongst the highest priorities for soldiers to be able to hear while on duty, according to new research from the University of Southampton.

New measures identified for newborn care in Uganda

date 2 hours ago

In Uganda, child mortality rates are improving, but progress is slower for deaths occurring in the first four weeks of life, or the newborn period, and for stillbirths. But recent evidence from local researchers ...

Should men cut back on their soy intake?

date 5 hours ago

Recently, a friend called my husband to inquire about the risks for men in consuming too much soy milk. He had read an article that described how one individual's plight led him down the path of breast enlargement, and was ...

Probing Question: What is umami?

date 5 hours ago

The next time you're at a dinner party and want to spice up the conversation, you might compliment the hosts on their umami-rich appetizers. Then wait a moment until someone invariably asks, "What's umami?"

Will the Affordable Care Act eliminate health disparities?

date 7 hours ago

Massachusetts' health reform may be a crystal ball for researchers and policymakers in forecasting the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act. Many see the ACA as the backbone of efforts toward closing the nation's health ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.