Better Food Movement is Now Unstoppable
Let me amaze you with some fun statistics and historical touchstones. First, the facts: one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050; 63 percent of Americans actively avoid soda; 92 percent of consumers believe GMO foods should be labeled accordingly; and—my favorite—even though just one percent of Americans have celiac disease, gluten-free foods have become an $8.8 billion industry.
OK, my definition of fun is admittedly loose, but I had an enjoyable time tracking down these stats (and many more) for an upcoming Franchise Times piece on the growing “better food” movement in franchised restaurants.
The conclusion is clear—regardless of motivation or science, in the case of the gluten-free nonsense—there is no stopping this freight train and your restaurant brand (or supply company) better be prepared to offer quality foods and explain to your customers where every major ingredient comes from.
It may be expensive (at worst) or annoying (at best) to recalibrate your restaurant’s menu and supply chain to accommodate today’s extremely discriminating customers, but millennials aren’t going anywhere and concern about food safety is widespread in this generation—now America’s largest.
As my boss, Nancy Weingartner, pointed out at the start of this project, millennials aren’t the first generation to care about what they eat. Boomers gave us Diet Coke and Tab, after all.
Looking at the “better food” movement through this more historical lens, I went back to 1980 to track the progress of major franchised restaurants as they slowly upgrade their food offerings.
A few notables: Jack In The Box offering the first “portable salads” in 1982, the growth and flaming out of early “fast food alternative” brands like Fresh Choice and D’Lites, the introduction of grilled chicken sandwiches in the late 80s as fried became a bad word, McDonald’s phasing out Super Size options in 2004, the impact on California and New York's initial trans fat bans and—another favorite—Wendy’s moving away sludgy trans fats in 2006 and then introducing the Baconator in 2007.
The improvements in the franchised restaurant world were slow and steady until about 2010 when popular documentaries and social media shaming (think pink slime) revved up the pressure on brands to care about the welfare of the workers and animals all the way down the supply chain.
Make fun of us millennials all you want, but we're leaving our mark. Previous generations had an impact on better food, but today's picky youngsters (I feel more middle age, but whatever...) are winning this war. Is your restaurant chain on board? It better be.