Food for thought
The fast food market has historically been dominated by burger joints, pizza places and chicken shops, with industry giants like McDonald’s setting the precedent in junk food ideals. But as society becomes more and more concerned with what we consume, where it comes from and the implications it may have on our health, the face of fast food is changing.
The newest trend in the fast food industry is that of fresh and healthy alternatives. This change in consumer concern has found brands like Subway, Burger King and Taco Bell try and shake their name as (exclusively) junk food leaders and appeal more to families and the health conscious eater.
The shift in consumer habits has resulted in big name brands marketing foods that would have previously looked out of place on their menu. We have seen Subway move forward with a new range of salads to go with their ‘eat fresh’ strapline, KFC have released a new ‘ricebox’, and Dominos have created a new thin base pizza that offers toppings like chicken breast, prosciutto ham and fresh rocket leaves. Even less obvious fast food retailers like Starbucks are joining in by altering their food and drink offer to cater to evolving needs.
Whilst the old-guard of junk food conglomerates continue to try and clean up their image there is an entirely new wave of restaurants opening across the globe that threaten their ever diminishing customer base. Fast food chain Leon with their ‘fast food naturally’ slogan are an example, bringing colourful, fresh and fast food to Europe. A visit to their online menu will face you with a multi-coloured list of options, and the opportunity to tick your own dietary preferences which include options such as post-workout, climatarian, pescatarian, and even ‘it’s sunny’, just in case the warm weather leaves you unsure of what to have.
Top food executives Becky Frankiewicz & Suzanne Ginestro who work for names like PepsiCo and Campbell Soup have described the move towards different fast food options as a ‘movement’, commenting that instead of being a fleeting trend toward health and fitness the change is actually more concerned with the universal concept of choice and transparency. Ginestro, Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer for Campbell Fresh (C-Fresh), noted that "the new food consumer is moving toward fresher, cleaner labels, and transparency is king."
The opinion that the change in fast food standards is more about honest and accessible information regarding what goes into our food is a popular one, and something that is reflected in changes being made by popular eateries.
McDonald’s is one brand that has particularly focused in on re-asserting their values and quality assurance to consumers, with the ‘good to know’ drive which hones in on their food quality and suppliers to assure customers that their burgers, fries and even coffee are responsibly sourced and made from quality produce. Similarly, Subway has recently released the new Rotisserie-style chicken sub which is the first sandwich to be made with meat from animals raised without antibiotics.
Subway’s global dietitian, Lanette Kovachi comments: "We are looking at all our menu items and ingredients and looking at how we can make those ingredient lists cleaner so customers can understand what's in their food," highlighting the brand’s awareness of changing attitudes.
So what does this mean for the consumer going forward? It means that whether we opt for a juicy burger, or a vibrant salad we can expect more choice, and clearer information regarding ingredients and nutrition – meaning that we have the best chance to make informed choices and know what’s on our plate (or paper bag in this case!)