This strategy can boost guest traffic without increasing the company’s workload.

Sponsored by Delavau Food Partners.

Today, health-focused consumers demand more nutritional food from quick-service restaurants than ever before, and offering foods that consumers see as healthy can help brands drive sales. Nielsen’s 2015 Global Health and Wellness Survey reports that 88 percent of participants said they were willing to pay more for healthier foods. Contemporary diners, however, no longer perceive items to be healthier just because they don’t include ingredients they don’t want to consume; they also want functional foods that add nutritional value.

“It’s almost impossible these days for any restaurant to ignore health-conscious eaters because they exist in all shapes and sizes,” says Jeff Billig, vice president and general manager at Delavau Food Partners. “It’s the working professional running out to lunch or empty nesters who don’t want to spend time and effort cooking at home but don’t want to go out to a big elaborate sit-down dinner.”

As a father of three, Billig says he knows from experience that health-conscious diners are also parents who worry about children getting proper nutrition. He says that in today’s busy world in which more families are eating on the go, parents often have to make compromises, and restaurants can be vetoed by parents for not offering health benefits.

“Having enhanced nutritional offerings helps restaurants overcome that objection,” Billig says. “For example, Subway has historically had a glass of milk worth of calcium in its six-inch sandwich roll, so as a parent, I don’t mind stopping at Subway.”

For other restaurants considering adding more functional foods to the menu, calcium is a strong choice, says Matt Patrick, director of research and development for Delavau Food Partners. “Calcium has one of the most wholesome halos around it of all minerals,” Patrick says. Not only is it a crucial mineral that promotes bone health, among other benefits, it’s also a nutrient that many diners seek. The same Nielsen study says that 30 percent of respondents look for foods that are fortified with calcium.

Adding calcium, however, can be a challenge for brands to do themselves. Calcium supplements have traditionally come with bitter tastes or gritty mouthfeel that can make foods unappealing. Additionally, researching nutritional additives, testing them, and developing products and processes can eat up valuable brand resources that could be better spent on menu development or other essential tasks. Partners like Delavau can help reduce strain while still allowing brands to incorporate the benefits of functional foods.

“Resources tend to be fairly thin for developing these products on your own, and that’s where our business comes in,” Billig says. “We don’t just deliver technology; we have the ability to help customers advance their menus without taking resources away from other tasks, which helps restaurants get more bang for their buck.”

The company works with each brand to devise unique solutions to many different types of problems. For example, Patrick says, they could also help a brand reduce sodium in offerings without impacting the quality of the bread.

“We come up with custom solutions because one size doesn’t fit all and the solution for one customer doesn’t actually always translate very well to somebody else’s business and processes,” Patrick says, “and we try to solve problems in a cost-effective way. We work on everything from fortification to shelf life, or even slimming down an ingredient list.”

With a strong partner, restaurants can help drive guest loyalty and sales without the operational tradeoffs. “We’re those kids in the front of the class who are putting their hands up,” Billig says. “We’re happy to take that project on for you. Our value is not just in the technology we have and the products we create, but the ability to help you get more bang for your buck.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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