One of the fastest rising trends in recent years, along with street food and generally higher standards, has been the demand for healthier options. With customers being much more knowledgeable about what they are eating, along with the UK’s growing gym culture, your menus now need to be packed with protein and bursting at the seams with vitamins.
“From flexitarianism to raw and clean eating, the number of health-inspired movements gaining traction in recent years is staggering,” says Lucy Pedrick, insights manager for Bidfood. “In fact, an estimated 542,000 people in the UK are now following a vegan diet, and free-from is continuing to grow. Indeed, some 54% of the population bought a free-from product in the first three months of 2017. Offering wholesome and nutritious options on menus is simply a must, especially as 63% of adults try to eat healthily most of the time.”
“The healthy eating trend was very strong in 2017 and the predictions are that it will continue to grow in 2018,” agrees Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods. “But this year, for consumers, it will be more about lifestyles and how they look and feel from the inside out, just as much as about what they actually eat.
“According to the 2017 trends from food industry experts Technomic, 69% of people decide where to eat based on the availability of healthy options. Sales of healthy options shot up by 57% during 2017. These are global statistics that UK OOH operators would do well to keep an eye on and bear in mind when they are drawing up their menus.”
And this is just as important when it comes to your beverages, as Amy Burgess, trade communications manager for Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says: “In line with growing demand, lower and zero calorie ranges have been a key focus at CCEP. Since 2012, we have invested £30m in reformulation and have introduced 29 reformulated or new low or zero sugar soft drinks since 2005. This underlines our commitment to sugar reduction across our portfolio, while helping operators to increase sales by offering choice to their customers.”
Quality is key
One of the biggest challenges is that while customers demand that their meals are lower in calories, they also want them to taste just as good (all while also coming in at a reasonable price!). Damien Lee, CEO of Mr Lee’s Pure Foods, hits the nail on the head when he says: “We believe people are starting to realise that eating healthier doesn’t have to mean not eating well. Extreme dieting may work for some, but on the whole it’s about finding ways to renovate your diet, not cut it back, that count when it comes to weight-loss and healthier living.
“Eating smarter foods is the key – finding foods that fill you up, foods that are well balanced and are full of nutrition. This doesn’t have to mean eating only tofu and fresh air either; there are plenty of things you currently enjoy that no doubt have smarter alternatives that taste just as great.”
“People now expect healthy options to have all the taste and satisfaction credentials of any other dish from the menu,” agrees Marie Medhurst, sales director for Bannisters’ Farm. “Using nutritious products that are filling as well as flavourful is key to creating appealing healthy alternatives.”
“Consumers are demanding healthy food on the go,” continues Amanda Cook, founder of I Love Snacks. “They want snacks that taste great and have nutritional benefits too, and quality ingredients and provenance are key.
“2018 will see the rise of the balance equation. This trend involves consumers writing their own definitions of ‘healthy’ based on the occasion and their needs. People want to eat healthily and are willing to treat themselves too – it’s all about moderation.”
“Nutritious and functional products are forecasted to filter into the mainstream as ‘healthy food is not to be considered a luxury’,” says Natasha Dowse, co-founder of Minioti. “During 2018, we will see sugar substitutes coupled with ingredients that improve and protect health rise in popularity. Consumers are becoming more educated about sugar – and where it is hidden. At Minioti, we are very clear in our labelling that no sugar is added to our ice creams – they are made with love, not sugar!”
Free-from is predicted to be one of the biggest and fastest growing food trends for 2018, with increased consumer demand for healthier snacking driving the sector like never before. This view is shared by Debbie King, director of commercial sales and marketing for healthier snacking brand Eat Real, which has experienced phenomenal growth in the three years since its launch. This is due largely, she says, to people’s growing preferences for good-for-you products and all-natural ingredients.
“Healthier snacking is undoubtedly one of the strongest trends in the out of home and snacking arena, and we firmly believe that the preference for good-for-you products will continue to out-perform the market and drive further expansion of the sector, not only in the coming months but also significantly in the longer term,” she says. “We know that modern consumers, especially millennials, are seeking out snacks that don’t compromise on either taste or texture. They’re also more health-conscious and seeking out ‘guilt-free’ snacks that align both with lifestyle choices and dietary considerations.”
The fact is that providing wholesome options is a win-win situation – it can slim down your customers while fattening your profits, as Simon Cannell, managing director, Speciality Breads, concludes: “I expect the healthy eating trend to gather further momentum in 2018 so operators and chefs have to make sure they have menus that tick the box for the growing number of health-conscious consumers. This means looking at on-trend health ingredients and launching dishes that can cater for food allergies and the growing number of vegans and vegetarians. The future of healthy eating is very bright with an incredible amount of innovation and creativity being seen in product development and across foodservice.”