The expanding waistlines of U.S. consumers have created a flurry of governmental and restaurant industry actions aimed at getting Americans to eat more healthfully. Consumers are slowly getting the hint, but they don’t want to pay more for healthier restaurant food, according to a recently-released report by The NPD Group, a leading market research company.
The foodservice market research report finds that the majority (70 percent) of consumers, especially those 50 years old and above—who typically express more interest in healthful foods than their younger counterparts—expect to pay no more for healthier items than they do for other menu items.
According to the report entitled “Consumers Define Healthy Eating When They Go Out to Eat,” when asked if they would be willing to pay more for healthful items at restaurants they visited often, 70 percent of adults over 50 said no, 25 percent said they would pay somewhat more, and only 5 percent said they would pay a lot more.
In contrast, younger adults appear more open to paying more for healthful items, with 44 percent of those aged 18 – 24 saying they would expect prices for healthful items to be the same as other items, and 41 percent saying they would expect to pay somewhat more. Fifteen percent said they would expect to pay a lot more.
The restaurant segment also played a role in consumers’ price perceptions, according to the report. More consumers at full-service restaurants expected to pay the same price for healthful items as they did for other menu options, while fewer consumers at quick-service restaurants did.
Survey respondents also noted that they would feel more satisfied after restaurant visits if they had more healthful options available at the same prices as less healthful options, including on the value menu.
“One of the key takeaways from the study results is that pricing of the healthy options needs to be consistent with pricing of other choices on the menu,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the report. “The market for health today is growing and there is a good opportunity for operators who find a way to offer healthier options at lower price points.”