Fish and chips losing out in healthy eating crusade

Published on
August 25, 2016

Fish and chips are being dropped from catering menus in the UK at an alarming rate.

One of the most iconic British dishes when eating out, fish and chips has declined dramatically in popularity from third place in foodservice outlets in 2011, to eighth place today.

A study of 800 restaurants, pubs and hotels found that a quarter of these outlets are no longer offering fish and chips on their menus, but have replaced the former national favourite with salad dishes instead.

More than 50 percent of foodservice outlets have introduced main course salads such as goat cheese, tuna and grilled chicken during the past year. They have rocketed in popularity and are now the fourth most requested dish on UK menus despite not featuring in last year’s top 20.

According to foodservice market analyst firm Horizon, which conducted the survey, the use of pulses and fruit has also seen a rapid year-on-year increase. The term “super food” to describe certain items is becoming commonplace, being used 75 percent more often than it was this time last year.

Vegetarian dishes now have twice the share they had in 2010, while vegan dishes are on the up-and-up, with 21 percent of the eating out brands surveyed now offering a vegan option. Gluten-free terminology is also more common, having risen 89 percent over the past two years and wheat-free options are up 80 percent on menus since last year.

All this, of course, is part of the current trend towards healthy eating and the decision to shun ingredients such as fats, particularly saturated fats, salt and sugar, which consumers now recognize as being harmful to their health.

Consumer analyst Nielson recently reported that nearly two thirds of UK consumers say they are cutting down on fats, while 62 percent say they are eating less chocolate and sugary sweets.

What consumers are actually doing, rather than say they are doing, can be two different things, however. The BBC has just reported that consumers are drastically understating the calorie content of their diets.

Nevertheless they are obviously ordering the different dishes appearing on menus and these dishes are reflecting changes in consumer attitudes.

“Customers are now much more willing to try new foods, particularly those with perceived health benefits, said Horizons’ managing director Peter Backman.

“Trends in foods and ingredients are translated into dishes on high street menus quicker than ever as operators acknowledge the importance of keeping up with fast-moving food fashions, many of which are currently for healthier options and novel ingredients.”

Greggs, the high street bakery chain which has more outlets in the UK than McDonalds, is certainly altering the mix of products it sells and is thinking of offering sushi which it says fits with consumers’ changing tastes.

So while sushi and tuna salads are becoming popular seafood menu choices, it is not necessarily the end of the road for fish and chips.

In 2013, the Daily Telegraph looked at 10 foods which might be considered unhealthy but are better to eat than most people might think. Fish and chips came top of the list in that while the dish is high in calories, the fish is very nutritious. It was stated that fish and chips can be part of a healthy diet as long as it is eaten in moderation.

However, it is now up to the UK seafood industry to look at how fish and chips can be better presented as a healthy choice on foodservice menus.

A small chain of fish and chip outlets in south west London/Surrey is illustrating one way forward. It offers grilled fish in addition to deep fried fish in batter, and salad is available as an optional extra.

It would be thought that the current health trend sweeping the UK is a golden opportunity for the seafood industry to increase the consumption of fish and shellfish.

Unfortunately, the current obsession with only selling sustainably caught fish seems to have taken over the industry to such an extent that not much thought is being given to promoting seafood as the healthy choice when eating out.

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