Following Industry Trends: Healthy Options

BIn recent years, statistics have shown that consumers want to eat healthy. For this reason big chains like McDonalds and Taco Bell have added healthy options to their menus, and in correlation, placed great advertising efforts to promote it. They even offer nutritional facts of their menu items and calorie calculators on their websites. Big chains such as these have caught on to the trends and responded effectively to them. People want to eat things that are nutritious, that contain a minimal amount of calories, that are low in sugar, or low in fat; and for many even that is not enough, they want organic. The National Restaurant Association reports “73 percent of adults say they try to eat healthier now at restaurants than they did two years ago.” In addition, according to Keys Allan, President of Sportea® “87% of the Café owners want healthy items to be added to their menus.” Despite the statistics, a recent survey CoffeeTalk sent out to Café owners and managers, showed that only 23.1 percent of coffee shops offered menus that contained at least 50 percent healthy foods; and 30.8 percent of the cafés offer as little as 10 percent or less healthy options. The same survey by CoffeeTalk, showed that the main challenges that Café owners faced when dealing with healthy products were the high cost of items (75%) lack of storage space (50%), little customer interest (25%) other items sell better (50%), and waste (12.5%). Most cafés will deal with at least one of these challenges, if not all. So how can we overcome these challenges? How do we decide what to offer? Is offering healthy products worth the trouble?

Effective marketing

The simple act of marketing products at coffee shops is an imperative, yet often neglected, strategy to sell not only healthy items, but also any product. While some people are set on what they will get before they come in through the door; many just have a general idea, such as “something healthy”, but will rely on the menu, staff, and the presentation of the products to make their final decision. The customer will probably buy what gets their attention first whether it is because of the price, attractive packaging, or the product’s features. For this reason it is important to work with your supplier to highlight a product’s benefits. According to Sarah Ludmer, Senior Nutritionist for Del Monte Foods “Many customers that want to eat healthy already know what to look for. Other customers will read a label to confirm ingredients, nutritionals, serving sizes and shelf life. If a menu offering is not clearly labeled or has confusing labeling, customers may not try that menu item. To facilitate ease, Café owners could also create a menu listing: “Under 100 calories per serving” or “No Trans Fat” and call these industry buzz words out to their customers.” This is an easy, low cost, and effective way to market healthy products: highlighting the nutritional facts of healthy items on your menu.”
Most suppliers will work with cafés by providing materials to market their healthy products, Jane Verdurmen Peart, Brand Director at Torani says “for Torani Real Fruit Smoothies specifically, we created a double-sided poster where one side lists the calories, vitamin C and fiber, so Cafés who’d like to promote the healthy aspects have a super easy way to do that.” According to an article by Mike Stobbe in April 2011, “About half of U.S. adults take vitamins and other dietary supplements.” People are interested in being healthy and taking their vitamins, especially if they can take it though the enjoyment of a snack or beverage!
A great example of a beverage that is filled with vitamins is Sportea®. “It contains a full daily dose of vitamin C every 6 ounce serving, and has lots of trace minerals and electrolytes that are needed every day by consumers” says Keys Allan. Furthermore, it “contains potassium which helps with the muscle cramping associated with stress for heavy physical exercise/work.” Adds Keys, the President of Sportea®. A drink such as this is easy to market because it contains so many nutritional elements. By listing on your menu that a product has “zero calories”, or by listing all the vitamins that it contains, a customer, that wants to be healthy, will most likely be interested and desire to buy that product because of the benefits they will get from it. Consumers will even be willing to pay more to get all their vitamins in a drink, or to eat a low-calorie or sugar-free snack. According to Mandy from Umpqua Oats “Customers appreciate that the café owners are providing more and more healthy options. I think most consumers know that eating healthy is a little more expensive, and most are willing to pay for that benefit.”

What to offer

Individuals are looking for fresh and “all natural” products. They are looking for foods and beverages that will help them improve their diet, health, and overall lifestyle. Ed Fountain from Juice Marketing Northwest, Inc. says “‘Just squeezed is the only fresh.’ When given the option the customer will always prefer on-site fresh squeezed juices over the concentrates that many restaurants serve.” This is an excellent way to differentiate your café from others who only offer already bottled juices. In addition to all natural, consumers are also looking into Functional Beverages. This category of beverages is sought by individuals not only because they are healthy but because of all the natural additives and energizing elements that they contain. A great example is Big Trains new “Fit Frappe” which contains19 vitamins and minerals, is gluten-free, and under 130 calories. David Gross, Founder of Smoothie Essentials comments “Our supplements are tasteless and odorless so you can add them to smoothies or blended drinks and not know they are there. Last year we introduced an omega-3 boost. Research showed that last year’s demand for Omega-3s increased by 42 percent.” In addition, Gross adds “Healthy drinks = Healthy Profits. Each serving of Smoothie Essentials Supplement-Boosts will cost the merchant about 15 cents. They charge at least 50 cents per serving for a 70% gross profit.” This is not only a great way to meet consumer demands of healthy foods and supplements, but also a great way to make a profit!
Each café has its own identity in the foods they offer, and what distinguishes them from others. Some Cafés specialize entirely on healthy foods. These cafés are equipped with the necessary kitchen tools, staff, and supplies to run a healthy establishment. But for those who are not, convenience and practical foods are the ideal solution. Even cafés that already offer healthy sandwiches, salads, and smoothies might find these convenient products ideal to diversify and expand their menu even more. Del Monte’s Fruit Naturals and Super Fruit “have a small case pack and extended shelf life thus minimizing waste while using a minimal amount of storage space. Lastly, our products are recommended to be sold for $1.79-$1.99 per cup, our customers feel this is a good value.” Says Shaily Sanghvi, Director of Refrigerated Produce at Del Monte Foods. “Not only are these fruit packages convenient, and minimize waste, but also they are made of 100% fruit in 100% fruit juice.”
Convenient products not only benefit the consumer because they can be in and out quickly, but the coffee shop staff as well. Many items in café shops require preparation time, and in peak hours it might be very hard for the staff to cover all demands in a timely manner. Mandy Holborow from Umpqua oats points out “Oatmeal has always been known as a healthy option, but most cafés have not been able to offer it because of the effort it takes to prepare.” She also adds, “Healthy options usually require a lot of time and money and often there is food waste. Typically, the quick foods are the easiest for a café. That is what makes our product so special. We are an affordable breakfast option that only takes 2-3 minutes of cook time in its own container. The café only needs to add hot water and the product is out to the customer.”
DCoffee consumers love to personalize their beverage. They enjoy having options to mix with their coffee, tea, or smoothie. So an easy way to provide café patrons with a healthy option is all natural, low-calorie, and sugar free sweeteners. A recent trend in these past years is the increased customer interest in sweeteners made from real fruits and natural plants. “Truvia® is the brand name for a great-tasting, natural, zero-calorie sweetener made with rebiana, the best-tasting part of the stevia leaf, which is 200 times sweeter than sweetener.“ Says Katie Woolery, Marketing Communications Manager for Truvia®. Furthermore, giving your customers the option to choose a healthy flavoring to add to their drink, such as Weldon’s sugar free liquid flavorings “With no carbs, fats, sodium, caffeine or bitter aftertaste;” or by offering them the option of a sugar-free chocolate powder, such as Costellinis’, to complement their Frappuccino is essential to keeping happy customers.
What about organic? Foods categorized as “organic” are those that have never been touched by pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and that have never been genetically modified. Organic foods range from foods and vegetables to coffee and teas. This industry is heavily regulated and must have special certification to be classified as “organic.” Linda Appel Lipsius, Co-founder of Teatulia says “Customers are making more of an effort to consume more organic, local, and healthy ingredients every time they go out to eat.” Thomson Reuters and NPR recently surveyed consumers on their preferences between organic versus non-organic, the report, showed that 60.6% of people in the 35-64 age group preferred organic, with an average of 57.6% across all age groups (2011, Evidently, consumers are not only demanding fresh and healthy, but organic as well. This might present a challenge to smaller cafés that do not have a large clientele that is yet focusing on organic foods, especially because consumer will have to pay slightly higher prices for organic produce. The best way to research and test your coffee patrons and their interest in organic foods, is by initially offering products that are simple and have a longer shelf life such as an organic coffee or tea. “Tea is one of the healthiest drinks one can indulge in. Naturally, tea contains high levels of antioxidants. Tea promotes heart health and is known to strengthen one’s immune system. In addition, Teatulia teas are 100% organic,” adds Lipsius. If your customers respond positively to organic coffee or tea, it is an indication that they will most likely be willing to buy other organic products as well. For more Organic options please make sure to visit and search for “organic” in the category field.
Customers want healthy, but they also want great tasting foods. For this reason, it is important to research different options and then see what sells best with your clientele. “We have found customers don’t need to be overwhelmed by options, rather simply presented with the right ones,” says Jane Verdurmen Peart, Torani’s Brand Director of Blended Products. Don’t lose a customer to the competition because you failed to follow industry trends. It is important to research online and with different suppliers to find good healthy products. Requesting samples and asking employees for their input on different products will provide an outside opinion; and consequently, help you choose the best tasting product. Moreover, rotating your inventory with different options is a great way to see which healthy options work and which don’t in your café. Responding to customer demands and industry trends; being informed about the products available; and choosing the ones that will best sell in your café; followed by adequate marketing of the nutritional factors in products are the keys to successfully selling healthy options in your café.

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