Fish propelled by healthy, low-calorie claims

Published on
July 26, 2010

U.S. restaurants are adding more “healthy” and “low calorie” claims on their menus, and seafood is benefiting as a result.

“Restaurants are using seafood, as well as other proteins, to highlight their low-calorie and healthy menu options,” said Eric Giandelone, director of research for Mintel Foodservice, part of the Chicago-based research firm Mintel International.

Mintel recently released data on “healthy” and “low calorie” menu claims, and the number of menu items labeled as “healthy” grew 65 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010.

Additionally, more restaurants are adding low-calorie sections to their menus in recent years. Applebee’s, for example, has an “Under 550 Calories” menu section that features two new seafood entrées: Grilled Shrimp & Island Rice and Spicy Shrimp Diavolo. Chili’s “Guiltless Grill” menu, which highlights foods that are under 750 calories and 25 grams of fat, includes Cedar Plank Tilapia and Guiltless Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon.

Calorie information will become even more popular, according to Mintel, because the U.S. healthcare bill will require all restaurants with 20 or more locations to include calorie counts on their menus. And restaurant-goers are already on board with calorie requirements: more than 60 percent of diners think restaurants should post nutritional information on their menus, according to Mintel’s new research.

In addition, 49 percent of consumers surveyed by Mintel said they are eating healthier this year when dining out, compared to last year; 41 percent of consumers who are 55 to 64 years old also reported ordering seafood the last time they ate at a fine-dining restaurant, more than twice the number who reported eating ordering steak.

While restaurants are doing better with labeling their healthy and low-calorie offerings, they can do more to promote their healthy seafood dishes.

“Seafood does have an opportunity to grow on restaurant menus, especially those seafood dishes positioned as healthy or low-calorie,” said Giandelone. “Seafood has a natural ‘better-for-you’ connotation, as well as healthy positioning, and can be a positive low-calorie menu option for those restaurant operators looking to balance their menus.”

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