Organic claims declining on US restaurant menus

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th April 2014
Organic claims are appearing less on American restaurant menus

Restaurants in the US have shifted their business practices to introduce a greater number and wider variety of claims that reflect trending food concerns, according to global research organisation Mintel.

Mintel said the shift has occurred as restaurants try to regain consumers’ trust after “recent food scandals, lack of transparency in food preparation and questionable treatment of animals”. According to Mintel, while “organic” is still the leading ethical claim on restaurant menus, its usage declined 28 per cent between 2010 and 2013.

“The reality is that organic foods are quite expensive and consumers are looking for alternative claims to help them determine what other types of menu items are safe and of good quality to eat,” said Julia Gallo-Torres, Category Manager, Mintel US Foodservice Oxygen Reports. “Tying into this, we are seeing a return to tried-and-true, traditional preparations, signalled by claims tied to classic, original, homemade etc,” she said.

Gluten-free claims growing on US restaurant menus

While ‘organic’ was in decline, claims like ‘gluten-free’ were appearing more frequently on restaurant menus, posting a 200 per cent increase between 2010 and 2013, and accounting for 40 per cent of the total growth in ingredient nutritional claims on the menu during the same period. Meanwhile, the biggest growth in ingredient claims came from nutritional claims (up 14 per cent) and geographic claims (up 12 per cent).

“Many Americans look to menu information to eat better and healthier,” Ms Gallo-Torres said. “Nutritional claims are a signal that certain foods can contribute to general health. In terms of geographic claims, consumers are seeking dining experiences that are more authentic and these claims also can convey a healthier presentation,” she said.

Consumers looking for ‘homemade’ signals

Mintel also found that consumers were looking for foods that were representative of being homemade. For example, the claim “made from scratch” was contributing 10 per cent to the overall growth of all restaurant menu claims.

Also tying into this trend was the growth of claims such as ‘original recipe’, ‘freshly-picked’, ‘farmstead’ and ‘farm style’. And as operators try to signal that their offerings, “signature” as an ingredient marketing claim grew 34 per cent.

“The number of allergen-related claims will continue to gain momentum, as more people are officially diagnosed with specific allergies and their families also go on restricted diets to help keep them healthy,” Ms Gallo-Torres said. “Leaning towards health, there also is a surge in vegetarian and vegan foods. People also want to know where their foods are coming from. Consumers will continue to look to menus for guidance on what to eat,” she said.