Americans Support Menu Labeling: Sugar and Fat Are the Most Important to Health-Conscious Diners

Menu board with calorie counts  | YELP

Menu board with calorie counts | YELP

With the FDA mandate well underway, requiring restaurants with 20 or more stores to include food labeling on menus– how are consumers responding to this? At what restaurants do they prefer to see calorie counts? Well, according to  to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in December–participants prefer to see these labeled menus at fast food and casual dining restaurants. Is that because fast casuals tend to be ahead in this regard? Major fast casual brands, such as Chipotle and Panera have already been displaying this information, specifically on their online ordering screens. 

Besides where consumers prefer to see these labeled menus, what nutritional information do they care the most about? According to the poll, consumers care the most about sugar (61%) and fat (59%) and then calories (55%.) Only 36% polled said that vitamins and minerals were extremely or very important when making a healthy food purchase. Read More

What the Menu Labeling Rules Mean for Restaurants

The fast casual brand, Panera already publishes this information  |

The fast casual brand, Panera already publishes this information |

The long official FDA menu labeling rules have been released and restaurants with 20 or more store locations will have to implement these new rules.

Some of the new elements revealed by the FDA-

  • Alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic that are listed on the menu or are available through self-serve machines must also be labeled.
  • These labeling rules are not just for the traditional restaurant concepts, but also ice cream shops, amusement parks, movie theaters, and any establishment with 20 or more locations selling food ready to eat. 
  • 11 nutrient facts are required- including total calories, fat calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, total carbs, total sugars, total protein, cholesterol, sodium, and protein. 
  • This statement must be printed somewhere on the menu– “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary. Additional nutrition information available upon request.”

These may be only affecting larger restaurant chains legally, but this will change consumer expectations. Calorie counts are going to be appearing on most menus and to prepare operators will need to start developing accurate recipes, training staff, and perhaps invest in expert dietitians. Read more about the FDA rules and how to prepare for them here. 

How are Consumers Reacting to Menus with Calorie Counts?

Chain restaurants across the nation are cutting calories on their menus. This is in preparation for the Obamacare rule, whereas chains of 20 or more locations have to display calories of food items on their menu. Several states across the nation, including California and New York City have already implemented a law like this, but it has not been strictly enforced. The Obamacare rule will be enforced by the FDA by the end of 2014.

So how have consumers responded to these calorie counts? Has this contributed to the healthier trend? Food labeling at restaurants have had mixed results. However, about one in five take the labels into account. And where are the calorie counts coming from? smaller portions? or are healthier menu items really making the difference? 

This has lead to the consumer eating less calories, without even knowing it. According to a Johns Hopkins study, there has been a 12 % cut on average of calories on menus and a 20 % decrease on calories on kid's menus. Even though the rule focuses on chain restaurants– this is going to make the consumer expect to see calorie counts everywhere. With that in mind, it is a good idea for independents and smaller chains to perhaps implement these menu changes, if they have not already. Read More