Americans Give Lip Service to Eating Better
By George Anderson
What Americans say about how they would like to eat and what actually passes their lips on its way to their stomachs are two entirely different things, especially when eating
out, according to a new research study and anecdotal accounts from just about anyone with sight.
Research from the NPD Group found that, depending on gender, hamburgers and French fries were either the first or second most often ordered items from restaurants last year.
Both sexes had pizza as their third choice.
Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD, told USA Today, “Americans have always had the means to eat healthier, but they do not have the will.”
That may help explain why fried chicken was the fastest-growing food category in restaurants last year.
George Hemingway, engagement manager at the consulting firm of Vivaldi Partners, said, “There’s lots of money to be made providing delicious food that’s not good for you. Americans
like to go out and eat good food. Generally speaking, good food is bad for you.”
If any one person has become public enemy number one for the nutrition police it is Andy Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Enterprises, owner of Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s
Under his leadership, the chains have introduced a number of items such as the Monster Thickburger that are loaded with calories, fat and, based on recent sales numbers, the
kind of taste that many consumers are looking for.
“If I’m being blamed for giving consumers yummy, delicious stuff, I’ll take the blame,” he said.
“These products sell better than health-conscious products. We don’t tell consumers what they want. They tell us.”
So, what about all the calls being made for restaurants to add more healthful items to their menus? Is there really a demand?
Many consumers are looking to eat more nutritionally balanced diets, say experts, but as Ron Paul president of Technomic explains it, “Healthy eating isn’t a trend. It’s a slow
creep. Most people would rather take a pill than change eating habits.”
Moderator’s Comment: Why do so many people talk about eating better but so few do it? What lessons are there to be learned here by retailers and other
businesses marketing to consumers? How do marketers, before embarking on a strategic change of course, distinguish between what consumers say they want and what they will actually
George Anderson – Moderator