Nutrition Information on Menus is Popular with Customers in a Variety of Catering Outlets

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 With rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes consumers who eat out are expressing a desire to know more about the nutrition in their meals.

 The UK retail sector has taken this on board providing consumers with “front of pack” numerical data and colour coded labelling on around 80% of ready to go packaged foods. Although several food outlet chains have adopted voluntary calorie labelling there have been relatively few independent, upmarket or smaller chains offering this information.

In parts of the US mandatory nutrition labelling exists on menus for chain restaurants with more than 15 outlets. This is generally confined to regular items on offer leaving room for flexibility and innovation with “specials” and avoiding daily reprinting of menus. Outlets are permitted some lee- way for slight variations in portion size or quantity of ingredients used. Around 16% of customers say they regularly use this information with the proportion rising to 20%   in higher income neighbourhoods (1) . There appears to be a high level of support for provision of this information to be extended to other food outlets (2). 

Consumer studies in the UK also suggest simple, visible nutrition information would be popular.  In a Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey, 85% felt outlets had a responsibility to provide the nutrition content requested and 80% thought calorie information on menus the most useful method (3). The Consumer’s Association also found that 66% of members wanted nutritional information on menus or menu boards (4).  

A study from Dundee University on nearly 800 adults showed that 43% welcomed calorie information in a range of food outlets including coffee shops, pubs and restaurants (5).   This figure was even higher for women, younger adults and those describing themselves as “comfortably off”. Interestingly even consumers who said they were not health conscious thought this information would be useful and welcomed by a broad range of diners.

Another study looked at the effectiveness of nutrition information on the menu in an upmarket, independent table service restaurant (7).   The majority of customers liked this information, especially women and those who ate out regularly. Most considered it a valuable service the restaurant was offering and 70 % said they would like to see similar information offered in other restaurants. 

Many registered dietitians have experience in recipe analysis and modification which can be applied to commercial catering settings. They often have access to nutritional analysis programmes and are skilled at converting handy measures given by chefs into weights needed for data input.  Per portion nutrition data for calories or other chosen nutrients can be generated alongside colour coding (defined per 100g).  Restaurants have the option to display information in a variety of ways depending on customer preference. 

In addition, some dietitians have already provided services in independent restaurants and retail outlets and have found staff are often keen to continue with nutritional signposting once they find it practical, affordable and popular with customers. Dietitians can also assist in providing alternatives and nutritional substitutes in line with recent demand for healthy and popular ingredients. Phil Rimmer, former Chef/Patron of Trough’s Restaurant says “Nutrition analysis of core menu items was surprisingly affordable and helped us offer healthy choices. We found the information useful for customers and feel providing this service is potentially a source of competitive advantage." 

For access to a database of expert Dietitians, please visit our booth or our website at http://freelancedietitians.org

 

References 

1. Dumanovsky et al (2011) British Medical Journal 343:d4464 http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4464. Accessed April 2017.

2. UPI Health News: Most U.S. adults favour calorie labelling. http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2012/06/04/Most-US-adults-favor-calorie-labeling/UPI-31541338865262/ Accessed April 2017.

3. FSA consumer 2009 Consumer response to nutrition information available in catering outlets. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/cateringoutletreport.pdf Accessed April 2017.

4.  Which? ( 2011) Food chains , just put calorie counts on your menus. http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/food-chains-display-calorie-information-menus/ Accessed April 2017.

 5. Mackison  et al (2009) Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 22 : 567-573 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2009.01000.x/abstract Accessed April 2017.

6.  Turconi G et al (2012) Helping consumers make a more conscious nutritional choice: acceptability of nutrition information at a cafeteria. Public Health Nutrition 15 : 792-801 . https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/S1368980011002990.  Accessed April 2017.

7. Heathcote  F  &  Baic S (2011) Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 24: 390-391 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2011.01177_21.x/abstract Accessed April 2017.