NPD Group, in its recently released "The Future of Eating: Who's Eating What in 2018?"" notes that during the decade from 2003-2013 consumption of fresh produce and proteins grew by 20 percent. The youngest generations, Gen Z (those under 23) and Millennials (24-37) are behind the demand for fresh product.
NPD expects breakfast to see the biggest jump in what it terms "fresh food eatings," with a forecast 9 percent increase by 2018. Lunch will see 7 percent more fresh items, while fresh dinner fare should grow 5 percent. Snacks should get healthier as well.
Not surprisingly, the demand for organic foods is expected to grow as well. "The interest in organics that was poised to take off in 2008 was stymied by the recession, but several trends indicate that interest in organic labels remains strong among the youngest generations but drops off dramatically after Gen Z and Millennials," NPD notes. In other words, the younger you are, the more likely you are to insist on organics.
Meanwhile, an update of Technomic's "Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report" confirms what many chefs already know: "Menu transparency is imperative and can help drive sales of healthy options," says Sara Monnette, senior director of consumer insights & innovation. "Telling an ingredient's story—whether it's farm-raised, local or GMO-free, for instance—can directly impact consumer decisions about what to order and where to dine."
It's not exactly a news flash that restaurant customers, fretting over concerns about everything from additives to gluten, fat, carbs, sweeteners, animal by-products, allergies, sustainability and more, value information. But the update contains a few more useful tidbits for operators:
• About two-thirds of consumers believe restaurants can offer food that is both healthy and tasty.
• Not everyone is on a diet. Consumers who eat healthy meals are more likely interested in nutrition and health than in weight loss.
• Consumers are most likely to look for healthy fare at fast-casual and casual full-service concepts.
• Terms like "fresh," "natural" and "unprocessed" provide a healthy halo to whatever dish they modify.