Consumers are paying more attention to what they eat than ever before. A quick glimpse of Twitter and Instagram reveals an endless stream of content relating to “clean eating,” “superfoods” and “real food,” exposing much about North Americans’ increasing interest in healthy eating. Does this mean all restaurants and foodservice locations must serve only salads and smoothies to ensure their success and longevity? Not a chance!
The 2014 Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report (Technomic Inc.) found that while people are eating healthier in general, and notably mostly at home, consumers look at dining out as an opportunity to indulge. With April being National Grilled Cheese Month, let’s explore how this classic sandwich can also fit with consumers’ desire to be healthier.
Technomic found that consumers would be willing to pay more (up to a 5% increase) for foods described as “hormone-free,” “preservative-free” and “antibiotic-free”. Restaurants and foodservice locations partaking in National Grilled Cheese Month can leverage this insight to build a sandwich that serves as an indulgence, yet also aligns with preferences for natural ingredients that consumers are actually willing to pay more for. This can be as simple as ensuring your Bacon Grilled Cheese uses hormone-free, antibiotic-free bacon, for example.
Technomic also found that, “four in five consumers (84%) are more likely to purchase food or beverages described as fresh.” Whether marketing a lighter-fare option or something more on the indulgent side, it is clear that “fresh” is not only a powerful word for consumers, but one that strongly influences purchasing decisions, as it hits the trifecta of nutrition, quality and taste.
Taking the idea of freshness one step further, consumers designate fruits and vegetables as “very healthy”. Given this finding, a grilled cheese sandwich that includes vegetables can arguably take the edge off this indulgence for some diners. Best of all, the versatility of this sandwich makes fresh additions like avocado, caramelized onion, or raspberries and sliced nectarines, easy. Need proof? Get inspired by our five grilled cheese sandwich ideas on our Twitter.
Here are a few other strategies for effectively building and marketing a “healthier” grilled cheese sandwich:
- Use whole grain or multi-grain bread
- Try a smaller format, like a grilled cheese slider or grilled cheese kabob (ideal for sharing and manageable indulgence)
- Use local produce and cheese, if possible (40% of people polled reported they were eating more local food than they were during the previous year)
While a traditional grilled cheese sandwich may not be considered inherently healthy, you can boost its nutrition and appeal through conscientious ingredient selection that aligns with consumer preferences for natural and fresh foods. It’s important to remember that healthy food perceptions will vary from customer to customer, and that understanding their unique tastes is fundamental to designing offerings that give your restaurant or foodservice location an edge. As consumers themselves noted, balance is key in a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of whether you offer a pure-indulgence version or put a healthy spin on it during National Grilled Cheese Month, this beloved sandwich has a place in many diners’ diets and hearts.