Calorie counts on menus beginning to influence consumer behaviour

Posted by Isobel Drake on 10th February 2009

A new survey conducted by foodservice consultants Technomic, Inc. has revealed that the mandated calorie disclosure for New York City restaurants with 15 or more units is starting to affect what items consumers order and which restaurants they visit.

Last year legislation came into effect in New York City requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie counts on menus. Since then the state of California has followed suit, with the UK set to also enact similar laws. In Australia, there have been suggestions that such a law could be recommended by the National Preventative Health Taskforce in June.

Technomic found that 86 per cent of New York City restaurant-goers were surprised by the calorie count information now listed on menus or menu boards, with 90 per cent of them claiming that the calorie count was higher than expected. As a consequence, 82 per cent suggested that calorie disclosure is affecting what they order, with 60 per cent indicating it is affecting where they visit. The researchers also found evidence that suggests a high level of consumer support for mandated disclosure of fat and sodium content in restaurant foods.

Kathy Gaynor, Technomic’s study director, suggested that the public was wanting more information about the food they eat. “Consumers want the restaurant industry to respond more aggressively to nutritional concerns and are in favor of all levels of government playing a more active role in regulating restaurant menus,” she claimed.