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    Grab and Go Healthy

  • Good-for-you snacks fuel busy lifestyles, blur traditional dayparts.

    According to data from the National Restaurant Association, 72 percent of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant with healthy items on the menu.

    Green Leaf’s & Bananas also sells a variety of shelf-stable packaged items. The Almond Energy Mix and honey-roasted nuts are the most popular items, followed by mixed nuts. It also offers wasabi green peas and several dried fruits.

    Packaged snacks not only provide healthy snack options for consumers, but they also provide a profitable add-on at the register, says Chris Mann, national director of foodservice for supplier KIND Snacks, which has products in brands including Smoothie King, Jamba Juice, and Au Bon Pain. He says quick-serve operators are aware that selling items like KIND bars will bring “that extra $2 on the ring.”

    “Customers grab a smoothie at 10 o’clock, but they know they’ll need something to get them through to the next meal,” he says.

    Mann says he can see healthy snacks taking off at more quick serves, either as a treat for adults or as part of kids’ meals. “We’re not following a trend, but providing a solution to making healthy choices,” he says.

    Quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants are the top snacking choice for consumers age 26–30, who purchase snacks for immediate consumption, according to a report from the Culinary Visions Panel, a Chicago-based team providing food-focused consumer research.

    The afternoon is when limited-service customers snack the most, the research shows. About 60 percent frequent their favorite quick-serve eateries in the late afternoon, while 40–50 percent do so in the early afternoon.

    Doc Popcorn owners Renee and Rob Israel say they wish they’d known the ins and outs of dayparts when they started selling popcorn in 2003 and opened for business at 7 a.m. “People don’t eat popcorn in the morning,” Rob Israel says. “Seventy to 80 percent of business is from 1 to 6 p.m.”

    Popcorn “stands alone as its own category in a way,” he says. “It’s unique in that it’s not in a food court, it’s not a meal replacement, and it’s not a dessert.” The Colorado-based concept has 93 units in more than 30 states, as well as in Mexico, Japan, and Puerto Rico.

    The Israels say their product is motivated by health but driven by high-quality flavors. “We use a high-end, non-GMO kernel and infuse it with flavor,” Israel says. Using only corn oil, corn, and salt, Doc Popcorn creates a popcorn that’s very different from the typical movie theater variety, which uses hydrogenated oils, which are high in unhealthy saturated fat, Israel says.

    There are 12–14 flavors at each shop, from Klassic Kettle and Sinfully Cinnamon to Triple White Cheddar and Hoppin’ Jalapeño. Customers are invited to mix any flavor combination. Cheddar with Jalapeño and Sweet Butter with Salt-N-Pepper are popular choices. There’s also the Suicide Mix, which combines every flavor.

    “It’s a very personal endeavor,” Israel says. “Giving people choice is a big driver.”

    The menu at Teriyaki Madness caters to people seeking a healthier and unique alternative to burgers, pizza, and sandwiches, says Rod Arreola, CEO and cofounder. Edamame is on the menu as a starter or appetizer, as it is in traditional Japanese restaurants. Because it’s served in a 12-ounce take-out box, customers often take leftovers to snack on the rest of the day.

    “Our edamame is prepared very simply, boiled fresh and then lightly salted with sea salt,” Arreola says. “It is served warm and is very portable. It holds very well and can be eaten over several hours if wanted.”

    The nutritional benefits of eating edamame, such as the high levels of protein and fiber, are advertised in the restaurant, he says. “I believe, in general, diners across the board are looking for healthier and more nutritious alternatives to the unhealthy options that the other fast-food concepts offer.”