In Focus
RESEARCH | Staff Reporter, UK

UK consumers' interest in health could accelerate out-of-home dining

The research from IGD found that 31% of consumers would eat out more if healthier options were more readily available.

The research – the first of its kind into this sector – explores the links between these trends and the opportunities presented for food and drink companies.

With over two-thirds (67%) of consumers eating out at least once a week in the UK, and 34% claiming to do so a couple of times a week, the research examines the relevance of health on these occasions and how consumers balance nutritional aims with the desire for a treat.

IGD's new research focuses on two trends at play in today’s market: eating out, and eating well. Eating out of home plays a significant part in the national diet and at the same time, interest in health and eating healthily is growing. Many food and drink companies already view health as a hugely important part of their strategy, but there is a clear commercial opportunity for businesses to take the lead in this area.

According to the analysis, there are four main factors that influence people’s decisions when eating out of home:

1. Occasion, i.e. day of week and time of day: regular occurrences such as workday lunches are more functional and controlled whereas weekend dinners are usually seen as special occasions and the time for a treat;

2. Companionship, i.e. who people eat with, if anyone: on their own, people tend to stick to regular choices, whereas in a group, they are more likely to try new things or visit different places;

3. Mood, i.e. the difference between a functional need and an emotional one;

4. Speed and convenience: some out-of-home eating decisions are made in time-pressed circumstances where people need easy choices, whereas others are relaxed occasions.

Also, the factors present four commercial opportunities for companies:

1. Offer a broader range of healthy options: there is scope to encourage some people to eat out more frequently by offering a broader range of healthy options and meeting specific dietary claims;

2. Reposition the language of health: many consumers view healthy eating as a sacrifice but there is scope to break this association, by showing that healthy food can taste good and make you feel good too. This requires hitting the right emotional notes, for example, giving healthy ingredients ‘hero status’, using enticing language and visuals to excite the senses and creating a sense of theatre around preparation;

3. Lead the market: some restaurants, cafes and food-to-go companies could build a reputation for leading the market on healthy choices, but this needs to be done in a skilful way, without switching off those who do not want health messages to be too intrusive;

4. Vary the offer and target demographics: there are opportunities to vary the offer and target certain demographic groups, locations and occasions when people are most concerned with healthy eating. For example, families with young children are particularly keen to see a wider choice of affordable, healthy choices in their area.

A more detailed summary of the research is available here:

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