Consumers struggle choosing healthier options
Unilever Food Solutions' latest World Menu Report titled "Seductive Nutrition" finds that US restaurant guests want the choice of eating healthier when dining out, but those good intentions do not always translate into action. While 52% of US diners surveyed said they frequently look for healthy menu options when eating out, 70% prefer to treat themselves when they place their order. Nearly 40% of diners say the "healthy" option sounds less "tasty" or may not be as filling. To help diners overcome these barriers and change perceptions, Unilever Food Solutions is recommending a simple solution for restaurant chefs and operators called "Seductive Nutrition."
"Seductive Nutrition" is a new approach to menu development that nudges guests to choose a slightly "healthier" option when eating out. It includes a "Seductive Nutrition" tool that takes a before-and-after look at ten top menu items updated with small changes to improve their nutrition profile, reduce calories and enhance their menu descriptions. The good news for the industry is that this approach can help make operators' businesses healthier too. "Seductive Nutrition" and the report's focus on health and nutrition highlight one of the fundamental initiatives that Unilever Food Solutions is dedicated to addressing through its enhanced consultation services. Through its "Your Menu" service area, Unilever Food Solutions provides tools to chefs and operators to help create nutritious, healthy and profitable menus.
"If diners are looking for more healthy food, it's our duty to make healthy options available, but we also still want guests to be satisfied with filling, tasty dishes," said Unilever Food Solutions' Corporate Executive Chef Steve Jilleba. "'Seductive Nutrition' is about balancing the health and appeal of your menus. For example, by using ingredients like leaner cuts of meat and more aromatic spices to flavor instead of lots of salt, chefs can make dishes that are appealing and taste delicious while being a little bit healthier."
Restaurant guests are not looking for dishes to be completely revamped or restaurant menus to be overhauled. More than two-thirds of diners would prefer to have just "slightly healthier" menu options to help them make their eating decisions. The survey also found that updated menu descriptions could help entice diners to select the healthier dishes on the menu. As a part of the survey, diners were provided with a healthy dish described on two menus – the first "neutral" and the second more "seductive." In 90% of the countries surveyed, diners were more inclined to choose the dish from the menu that included descriptor words, such as "steamed," "succulent" and "fresh."
"Insights from this study show that the small changes to top menu items can make a big difference," said Lisa Carlson, M.S., R.D., nutrition manager, Unilever Food Solutions North America. "In essence, these small updates serve as a powerful way to help guests choose a healthier option. They can have an enormous impact on the health of diners across the U.S."
The global report, commissioned by Unilever Food Solutions, surveyed 5,000 diners in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Poland, South Africa and Indonesia to measure consumers' attitudes on the challenges they face in making healthier meal choices when eating out-of-home. In November 2010, Unilever rolled out its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, with one of the main goals is to help more than one billion people improve their health and well-being by 2020. Now, more than a year into the 10-year plan, Unilever Food Solutions continues to contribute to the successful results attained so far in reaching this goal through such activities as the World Menu Report and its consultation services.