People Want Healthy Food! Restaurants Aren’t Listening! Supermarkets Are!

January 17, 2014

People want to eat healthier! But the nutritional discrepancy between what chain restaurants are serving and what CPGs are providing is huge – find out more here.

People want to eat healthier! In the soon to be released 2014 NGA SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey, more than one consumer in five (20.4%) say that dietitians are a “very/somewhat important” influence in their choice of a primary supermarket and that 80.8% of consumers consider health claims “almost always” or “sometimes” when considering purchase of a new food item.  Some of the nation's largest food companies have cut daily calorie counts by an average of 78 per person, according to a new study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And this is greater than four times the amount the industry pledged to slash by next year.

But there is a problem. Just about half of the foods and beverages are consumed away from home; and a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that the entrees at some popular chain restaurants are far from what one would consider nutritious. Meals were loaded with sodium and nearly void of fiber.  The findings fall in line with those of a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics last year, which demonstrated that average calories and sodium in US chain restaurant meals has stayed the same (2010 - 2011), despite additions of "healthier" menu options. The same researchers, (RAND Corp. and the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis Health System), had also found that nearly all chain restaurant entrees don’t follow recommendations for saturated fat and sodium from the USDA.

However, here’s proof that change matters: a study from the Hudson Institute showed that restaurant chains that introduced lower-calorie menu options had better sales figures and more visits than those that didn’t.

Eating out is ingrained in American culture: Four out of five Americans eat fast food at least once a month, according to a recent Gallup poll, and a survey from the North American Restaurant Consumer Sentiment Review indicated that more than half of people said they eat out at least once a week.

So why are CPGs making great progress on this issue but the chain restaurants are slow to change?

Since when are the rules different for packaged foods and fast food or chain restaurants?  Especially since it appears that packaged foods come under a lot more scrutiny from both consumers and NGOs than do fast food and chain eateries?

Is it because Americans don’t want to be bothered when eating out to check how many calories or fat are actually in their meal – but when buying and eating packaged foods the information confronts them every time the look at the box?

The Lempert Report wants to point out that CPG brands have made changes and although the food industry still has a ways to go, we need to acknowledge these companies who are moving forward on our goal to improve the health and wellness of our population by reformulating and producing healthier products for consumers.