What you need to know

As long as the health of American citizens continues to falter due to obesity and type 2 diabetes, healthy eating will be top of mind for the majority of consumers, whether or not they participate in a healthy lifestyle. Restaurants interested in boosting their healthy reputation are facing stiff competition against in-home eatings, which are often seen as being healthier, as well as from other restaurant chains that have a strong reputation for providing healthy items.

The main market trends that are affecting healthy dining trends include the changing definition of healthy foods, drivers that cause customers to order, or not order, healthy foods, what dayparts are lacking healthy meals, and how customers perceive health in regards to specific foods and beverages.


For the purposes of this report, Mintel explores how and when consumers perceive healthy foods in the foodservice market, as well as the dining behaviors of health-minded consumers compared to others. This information will help operators and manufacturers develop marketing plans and menus that resonate with current consumers and their perceptions of health. This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Healthy Dining Trends – US, July 2013 report as well as the May 2009-2012 reports of the same title.

This report also uses a custom “health conscious” consumer definition in the report. Based on the question that asked consumers about their healthy ordering based on dayparts (“In the last month, how often did you order healthy foods during breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner/supper, morning snack, afternoon snack, or late night snack?”), four consumer groups were defined:

  • “Non-Health”: The consumer did not often order healthy items at restaurants last month.

  • “Limited Health-Conscious”: The consumer indicated that they often order healthy items during one daypart last month.

  • “Balanced Health-Conscious”: The consumer indicated that they often order healthy items during 2-4 dayparts last month.

  • “High Health-Conscious”: The consumer indicated that they often order healthy items during 5-7 dayparts in last month.

Data sources

Mintel Menu Insights

MMI (Mintel Menu Insights) is a menu analyzing tool that provides flavor, ingredient, claims (marketing, nutritional, geographical), preparation, and price trend analysis, based on 3,054 unique commercial menus and 595 unique non-commercial menus. When combined, commercial and non-commercial menus contribute 291,923 unique menu items and 20,791 unique ingredients. The operators tracked in MMI represent 30% of the commercial restaurants in operation across America.

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through GMI to explore consumer attitudes and behaviors toward flavor trends in foodservice. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis, and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted in January 2014 among a sample of 2,000 adults aged 18+ with access to the internet.

Mintel selects survey respondents by gender, age, household income, and region so that they are proportionally representative of the US adult population using the internet. Mintel also slightly over-samples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or Black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in our survey results and to allow for more precise parameter estimates from our reported findings. Please note that Mintel surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who are not online and/or do not speak English are not included in the survey results.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (White, Black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

Abbreviations and terms


The following is a list of abbreviations used in this report:

ACV All Commodity Value
BFY Better-for-you
BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics
C-Store Convenience Store
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CPG Consumer Packaged Goods
CPI Consumer Price Index
DPI Disposable Personal Income
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The following terms are used in this report:

Chain Multiunit foodservice concepts operating under a single brand name, such as McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. A restaurant chain consists of two or more restaurants owned by one person or company. Typically all restaurants in a chain have similar décor and serve the same food.
Consumer unit Defined per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as either: 1) All members of a particular household who are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangements; 2) A financially independent person living alone or sharing a household with others, or living as a roomer in a private home or lodging house, or residing in permanent living quarters in a hotel or motel; or 3) Two or more people living together who pool their incomes to make joint expenditure decisions. Financial independence is determined by the three major expense categories: housing, food, and other living expenses. To be considered financially independent, a respondent must be able to provide at least two of the three major expense categories.
Fast casual A hybrid segment of fast food and casual dining, combining the convenience of limited service with the ambience and quality of full service. Defining features include check averages of $6-9; décor that is more sophisticated than a quick-service restaurant (QSR); and food prepared to order, with customization of ingredients by patron being the norm.
Fast food Used interchangeably with QSR.
Foodservice All places that prepare food outside the home are included as part of the foodservice industry, including food operations in supermarkets, schools, hospitals, factories, and prisons. Restaurants make up the largest part of the foodservice industry.
Franchise In most franchise agreements, a restaurant owner grants another person or company the right to use the name of his/her restaurant. This right also includes the use of the original owner’s patented products, building designs, and trademarks. In return, the original owner receives a fee. In addition, the franchisee usually pays a percentage of the restaurant’s income to the original owner.
Full-service restaurant Establishments that provide table service. Food is ordered at the table and is paid for at the end of the meal. The segment comprises several subsegments, differentiated primarily by check size. These include family/midscale restaurants and casual dining restaurants.
Independent A single restaurant that is not part of a chain.
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Generations are discussed within this report, and they are defined as:

World War II The generation born in 1932 or before. In 2014, members of this generation are aged 82 or older.
Swing Generation The generation born between 1933 and 1945. In 2014, members of the Swing Generation are between the ages of 69 and 81.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2014, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 50 and 68.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2014, Generation Xers are between the ages of 38 and 49.
Millennials* The generation born between 1977 and 1994. In 2014, Millennials are between the ages of 20 and 37.
iGeneration** The generation born from 1995 to present. In 2014, iGeneration are aged 19 or younger.

* Also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers.

** Previously known as Post-Millennials, Matrix Generation.

In order to provide an inflation-adjusted price value for markets, Mintel uses the CPI to deflate current prices. The CPI is defined as follows:

CPI The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

The CPI and its components are typically used to adjust other economic series for price changes and to translate these series into inflation-free dollars. Examples of series adjusted by the CPI include retail sales, hourly and weekly earnings, and components of the national income and product accounts. In addition, and in Mintel reports, the CPI is used as a deflator of the value of the consumer’s dollar to find its purchasing power. The purchasing power of the consumer’s dollar measures the change in the value to the consumer of goods and services that a dollar will buy at different dates.

The CPI is generally the best measure for adjusting payments to consumers when the intent is to allow consumers to purchase, at today’s prices, a market basket of goods and services equivalent to one that they could purchase in an earlier period. It is also the best measure to use to translate retail sales into real or inflation-free dollars.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics definition.
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