Healthy options help broaden outlets’ appeal, say food firms
THE Scottish diet has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, but with an explosion of ‘cooking culture’ in recent times, is there now an appetite for healthier options in the on-trade?
Food suppliers certainly seem to think so, suggesting operators offer more nutritious options in order to broaden their appeal.
Heather Waller of Greencity Wholefoods highlighted a larger public interest in food in general as an indicator that consumers are interested in making healthier purchases.
“When you see the viewing figures for food programmes such as Masterchef and the Great British Bake-Off you see how much interest we have in food,” said Waller.
“This is reflected in the choices we make as consumers.”
Waller said there has been a “massive increase” in demand for healthy options within pubs and restaurants, and suggested that token ‘healthy’ dishes won’t cut it anymore.
“Gone are the days when a salad consisted of a few shredded leaves of iceberg lettuce and a chopped tomato; these days consumers look for innovation, provenance and taste,” she said.
Increased interest in food has led to an increased prevalence of ingredients that would normally have been restricted to a few outlets, according to Waller, who suggested on-trade chefs get on board by using healthier ingredients.
“Everyone has heard of quinoa these days, so much so that UK farmers are starting to grow it as the market has mushroomed,” she said.
“Ten years ago it was only available in health food shops.
“These days chefs are experimenting with spelt cous cous, freekeh and maftoul as well as revisiting traditional recipes using barley or peasemeal. Starchy foods like pasta and potatoes have their place but grains have a far higher nutritional value. They work well with veg, fish or meat and best of all, they are economical.”
Waller said that by offering healthy options on the menu, publicans could reach a wider demographic. And like any menu, variety is crucial to encouraging return visits.
“It’s easy to offer a couple of healthy options, but to the consumer this can be quite uninspiring, and they may not return,” she said.
“Like with any good restaurant, having a fresh, local and seasonal menu is the key to success. Chefs should try to incorporate at least one healthy wholefood or ingredient into every dish.
“Having a choice of four or five healthy options is ideal; you want customers to come back to try the rest of the menu.”
Donnie MacLean, founder of nutrition-focused pizza brand Eat Balanced, said that when it comes to listing menu items, operators don’t need to label healthy dishes as the ‘healthy option’, but should instead strive to make standard dishes more nutritious.
“[Dishes don’t] have to be shown overtly as the ‘healthy option’, because that does restrict your market,” said MacLean.
“If you can provide a normal tasty meal, which has been reformulated to be more nutritious, that becomes the healthy option without actually saying so to the customers.”
However, highlighting healthy options on the children’s menu can pay dividends, said MacLean, who suggested parental concern for a child’s health can steer them towards healthier options.
“Over the past two years we have established that people care more about their kids’ health and how unhealthy eating can affect their kids’ future,” he said.
Whether it’s for children or adults, MacLean said the key thing operators should look at when building a healthier menu is nutrition, warning against falling into a calorie focus.
“Take responsibility for the salt, fat and sugar levels,” said MacLean.
“In our opinion, there is too much emphasis on ‘healthy options’ being all about calories. It should be about nutrition.”