Good intentions

24/07/2012 - 10:07
New Year resolutions have a way of influencing what consumers want to eat and drink, therefore operators need to be prepared. Sheila Eggleston reports

The Christmas and New Year celebrations are over and consumers concerned about their waistlines are taking more interest in ‘better for you’ products to counterbalance the excesses of the festive season.

From WeightWatchers to the new fangled Dukan diet taken up by Brits means menus are coming under close scrutiny.

If history is anything to go by it doesn’t last, but while it does café operators have to make adjustments to their menus to support consumers, whether it’s skinny lattes, detox smoothies or dishes with clearly labelled low calorie counts.

The pressure is on operators to offer healthier options anyway as the Government continues to encourage the nation to reduce its saturated fat intake to cut obesity levels and drives those that have signed up to its new Public Responsibility Deal to include calorie counts on menus.

The New Year is synonymous with new starts and many people always look to follow a healthier lifestyle after the festive season, says Tony Davison, commercial manager foodservice at Quorn Foods. “The new resolutions made in January mean consumers are consciously seeking healthy choices when eating out of home. Quorn is a great source of protein, low in fat and high in dietary fibre and a tasty ingredient perfect for creating delicious and flavoursome healthier dishes to fit in with this trend.

“It’s also not only a consideration for the New Year; with the nation increasingly watching its health, operators need to ensure they offer a variety of nutritious low calorie options all year round. To appeal to those watching their weight, it’s important to create a menu that features exciting, popular dishes that are healthier.”

Manufacturers that understand the need to address fat levels in products include Jus-Rol Professional, which has launched its first reduced fat pastry range to help caterers serve healthier food options that are big on taste. Available from January 1, the new pastry features 30% less fat.

“People are increasingly looking for healthier options when eating out but don’t want to sacrifice taste,” says foodservice sales manager John McKears. “Our reduced fat pastry is a milestone for the baked goods industry; it has been developed to deliver the taste and texture which has become our trademark, but enables caterers to instantly reduce the fat content in their pastry dishes and profit from the growing number of health conscious customers.

“The launch means there is finally a solution for caterers looking to strike a balance between putting on healthier and delicious pastry dishes without having to make drastic changes to menus or risk losing the ‘appetite appeal’ of their offering.”

Available in 1.5kg blocks of puff and shortcrust, the product has been crafted to deliver the texture and flavour of pastry that has been made from scratch. Caterers simply need to defrost, roll it out and be creative, says McKears.

Peros, one of the leading independent distributors of Fairtrade products in the UK, offers a range of healthy snacks and drinks from Metcalfe’s skinny topcorn and ‘nakd. wildly different’ pineapple infused raisins that offer one of consumers’ 5-a-day requirements, to Vita Coco coconut water.
Joint managing director James Roberts says a significant part of the healthy food market is the snacking sector.

“Looking specifically at this category, a recent report suggests that sales in the already substantial healthy snacks sector are set to rise by more than a fifth by 2014. This represents a fantastic opportunity for operators to boost sales and profits by offering them as an alternative or in addition to traditional ranges.

“Why is growth so strong?  Because growing consumer awareness of how sensible eating leads to positive health benefits has resulted in more people paying greater attention to their diets.

“Government campaigns such as 5-a-day and Change4life have helped drive this awareness. This has had a knock on effect in the on the go sector where time pressed consumers are still looking for a quick hunger fix – but now it needs to be a healthy option.

“Consumers are generally looking for purer options containing less sugar, salt and fat, fewer artificial additives or flavourings and more fibre. Fruit based snacks are popular as well as those containing cereals and nuts.

“Popcorn makes a great alternative to potato crisps – it’s convenient as a take-out snack but can also be eaten alongside healthy eat in options such as salad, sandwich or even soup. A good opportunity to offer meal deals.

“Plain cereal bars used to be about the only healthy alternatives to chocolate bars, oily crisps or salty nuts. That reputation has now gone because in terms of taste, healthy snacks have come of age driven by consumer demand. Now the range of flavours has become more varied and more natural – there’s something for everyone.”

Wenlock Spring says the New Year is a time when people reassess consumption habits and show a greater awareness towards health and physical fitness to counteract the excesses of Christmas. For many people this concentrates around a ‘detox’ theme. A key element of such regimes is usually a good intake of water.

“The average adult requires 1ml of water for every calorie consumed, whereas a child requires 1.5ml for every calorie consumed,” says director Matthew Orme. “Bottled water is the convenient way to access water throughout the day to stay hydrated and feeling fresh.

“In the post-festive season, looking good matters too. Water helps to maintain a healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and regulating appetite.”

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