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Americans Lose Trust in Top Food Brands and Fast-Food Outlets

Americans Lose Trust in Top Food Brands and Fast-Food Outlets

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Brand loyalty is one of the driving factors of commerce in America. Consumers commonly will pay more for a product they're loyal to, even when a less expensive option that does exactly the same thing is readily available. For a large percentage of Americans, for instance, ketchup is synonymous with Heinz — even though there are plenty of competitors out there and taste tests have shown that Heinz isn’t necessarily the best-tasting option.

Americans Lose Trust in Top Food Brands and Fast-Food Outlets (Slideshow)

The food world, though, has seen real change on this front over the past five years or so. More and more people are become increasingly conscious of what they put into their mouths — and into their bodies — and many are turning away from their formerly favorite food brands in favor of healthier alternatives. This has led to a boom in the healthy snack market — not to mention efforts by mainstream brands to keep up with the times by, for example, replacing high-fructose corn syrup with cane sugar or trumpeting the fact that their products contain no trans-fats or GMO ingredients.

As a recent Ad Age article put it: “Families once reliably heaped their plates with products such as Stove Top stuffing from Kraft Foods, Hamburger Helper from General Mills, and Kellogg cereals, along with similar products from other processed food titans. But now those consumers are increasingly migrating to smaller, upstart brands that are often perceived as healthier and more authentic.” To counter these trends, big food companies are increasingly trying to buy authenticity, as is evident in Kellogg’s purchase of Kashi, General Mills’ purchase of Annie’s Organic, and Hormel buying Applegate Farms.

As corporate food companies co-opt consumer concerns, consumer trust in famous brands appears to be faltering, and even as these brands continue to claim that they’re putting out healthy alternatives and moving away from practices that have been criticized as unsustainable or potentially harmful, we simply don’t believe them as unfailingly as we used to.

In a nationwide survey, we put this to test with readers of The Daily Meal. We asked those readers if their trust in specific food brands had increased, stayed the same, or decreased compared to five years ago. Overall the results support what we see as a trend. We included a dozen fast food purveyors and five brands each of chips, non-chip snacks, staple ingredients, and condiments.

Every single brand lost at least some degree of consumer trust over the past five years, according to our respondents. For 10 brands, the loss of trust was comparatively minor, with fewer than 20 percent of our readers feeling some disillusionment (the brands that fared best were French's Mustard, which only 9.6 percent trusted less, and Land O’ Lakes Butter at 13.9 percent). The fast food brand that has lost most consumer confidence was KFC, which 53.2 percent of our respondents trust less now than they did last year, closed followed by McDonald's, at 51.6 percent. Packaged food brands trusted least were Kraft Barbecue Sauce (39 percent) and Pringles (38.3 percent).

The best positive showing, with 37.3 percent of readers noting that they now trust it more than they did was (why are we not surprised?) Chipotle.Every single brand lost at least some degree of consumer trust over the past five years, according to our respondents.

What factors were most responsible for the loss of consumer trust in these well-known brands, according to those who took our survey? They varied, but included concerns about cleanliness (of fast food places), quality of ingredients (when prices dip too low, people start to ask why, and grow suspicious of corner-cutting), authenticity of the food served, and what is perceived as overly slick marketing. Brands gained consumer trust, on the other hand, largely for two reasons: because ingredients or products are thought to be healthy (the removal of trans-fats from foods does seem to matter) or simply because they taste good.

It might be noted that consumers also seem to maintain a degree of cynicism about big food brands. A number of our readers noted, of brands that they liked overall, that they hadn't been struck by any scandals yet.

Here are the details of what percentage of our respondents trusted brands more, less, or about the same as they did five years ago.

More Trust: 9.4 percent
Less Trust: 45.7 percent
About the Same: 44.9 percent

More Trust: 33.6 percent
Less Trust: 25.8 percent
About the Same: 40.6 percent

The future of fast food

The fast-food sector has been an industry staple for 100 years and is the leader in the restaurant industry when it comes to convenience and customer engagement. With the pandemic accelerating innovation, what future technology is set to change the face of the fast-food business forever?

There has been a century of innovation in the fast-food sector since White Castle, the first quick-service restaurant (QSR), opened in 1921 in the USA. Now in the light of the pandemic, QSR companies are leading the restaurant sector into a digitally enhanced and automated future.

In the wake of Covid-19, many QSRs have had no choice but to change tactics to cope with minimal-contact demand for food. Expanding drive-throughs and staff numbers, digitisation transformation and streamlining menus are just some of what fast-food giants are bringing to the table. Will this continue? And what does the future have in store?

Not much has really changed in terms of ‘drive-through’ innovation, yet according to Deloitte’s 2020 report ‘The restaurant of the future arrives ahead of schedule: Time to get on board’, American QSRs that only had 20 per cent drive-through business before the pandemic are finding it to have rapidly increased, often up by 90 per cent.

To cope with the pandemic, as well as up their business, some outlets installed express lanes for those with small orders, like a drink or one snack, which increases convenience for everyone, including drivers with multiple orders.

For the near future, Danny Klein, director of digital content at QSR magazine, says digital integration with store designs and mobile technology is the best place to start when it comes to upcoming fast-food tech. He adds: “You see this with the ‘restaurant of the future’ models being unveiled by the largest quick-service players of late, everyone from Taco Bell and its Go Mobile model to McDonald’s various designs.”

Essentially a smaller restaurant, Klein says the entire experience is integrated. “Taco Bell is fitting its prototype with ‘smart kitchen’ technology integrated with its app,” he adds.

“The Go Mobile restaurant can detect when guests arrive and suggest the quickest route for a seamless experience. All of this is going to work around mobile apps and trying to gather customer data through loyalty, which is one path around the third-party delivery effect.”

Go Mobile restaurants will have two drive-through lanes: one for drive-through and the other for mobile order pickup. Many chains are adopting the drive-through business as a response to the pandemic, but Taco Bell is the first fast-food chain to announce a ‘Chipotlane’-like mobile ordering and pickup system.

Another QSR giant, Burger King (BK), unveiled its own ‘restaurant of tomorrow’ in January. Its digital transformation will feature multiple drive-through lanes, dedicated parking spots for kerbside orders, pickup lockers (which we see with retailers like Amazon) and an external walk-up window, in response to the pandemic. Forbes reported that this was the food giant’s first rebrand after 20 years and says that as well as added lanes, the chain will deploy a proprietary machine-learning system, called Deep Flame in its exterior digital menu boards. This system should mean BK better learns customers’ habits and can better communicate with them.

US tech company Dynamic Yield is similar. Acquired by McDonald’s back in 2019 to support its digital transformation, Dynamic Yield’s decision technology is integrated into Maccy D’s digital menu displays. This means McDonald’s enhances food recommendations based on situations like time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic, and trending menu items. It also has a car licence plate recognition, so the system’s algorithm can tailor suggestions for returning customers, and those who have pre-ordered online or through its app can skip queues.

How permanent could this be? According to Deloitte, consumers said they would pay about 14 per cent more for the chance to use apps rather than cashiers. Also, 70 per cent of consumers surveyed by Deloitte said they prefer digital interaction to people.

Intelligent voice-recognition algorithms could be commonplace. For example, Swiss IT company Veovox specialises in audio and speech-recognition solutions, offering its expertise to optimise operations in the restaurant industry, especially QSR restaurants. McDonald’s tested the idea of voice assistants to run its drive-through services in suburban Chicago back in 2019.

The pandemic has certainly changed the look of QSRs and it could well stay that way, as people may find it more comfortable to be in a ‘ghost’ environment as the pandemic continues.

Klein believes restaurants must look at technology as a consumer-experience enabler, and Covid-19 did a good job of resetting this. “Too many brands were growth obsessed ahead of the crisis. They lost sight on what customers wanted. These past few months, they haven’t had a choice.

“That’s why you see all these kerbside, dining-room-free restaurants with seamless integration. That’s what the customer was asking for. More convenience. Less contact. Covid-19 has really defined the lines in food service. And I think the guest is going to win. Things like virtual brands and in-house delivery are going to make dining out more accessible and plentiful, from a quick-service standpoint.”

One company driving data solutions is Fingermark, which released Eyecue, a customer and operations analytics system. It is said to offer quick-service restaurants insight into their drive-through performance with more accuracy. QSR says the system’s built-in AI uses machine learning to analyse trends, collate and display data, identify slowdowns, and suggest changes brands can make to help optimise operations. For example, CEO Luke Irving told QSR magazine that Eyecue might tell managers when it’s time to open a second drive-through window, or when to deploy another drive-through team member, rather than waiting for the restaurant to become busy before reacting.

Richard Downs, Northern Europe director of Applause, a venture-funded company that tests software and conducts usability feedback research, says fast-food chains, restaurants and takeaways are adapting to lockdown conditions with new strategies to drive sales and maintain customer loyalty, and the fast-food segment has always been quick to address digital disruption. “The emergence of platforms like Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats has given chains and independents a new lease of life, enabling them to reach customers via web and mobile apps,” he says, adding that the scale of Covid-19 accelerated plans to embrace digital operations.

Businesses have ramped up promotions, loyalty programmes and personalised offerings to incentivise customers. Mobile ordering and contactless payments are now standard processes. Downs believes these new marketing, payment and fulfilment methods are proving to be successful and there’s a strong possibility that businesses will persist with them in the future.

Deloitte says brands that are nimble and experimental have a chance to attract the digital customer, and user-friendly ‘frictionless’ digital platforms is the least of what QSRs should do to attract and keep customers.

Dr Roberta Re, director of Cambridge Food Science, believes that in the future consumers will want QR codes and apps so they can ‘communicate’ directly with their food, enabling choices that match their own personal health regimes. Consumers pay attention to what they eat and how it makes them feel. “Health has a new broader meaning – an overall wellbeing of physical and mental health. This extends right across the food supply chain and now consumers expect the same health benefits from their fast foods, an area not traditionally associated to health,” she adds.

Diet trends have taken a less restrictive and more mindful or intuitive relationship with food and Dr Re thinks companies will need more ways to provide reliable and immediate information about their products using technology such as QR codes and apps so that consumers will be able to personally monitor the benefits they are striving for through wearable devices.

Restaurants are now having to jump on the convenience bandwagon too, which could take away some QSR business, but also drives innovation. Digital is the best way to deal with the switch from face-to-face customer interaction.

How do future customers want to interact with restaurants in a digital world? And what’s going on in the kitchens? Deloitte’s survey results indicated that when customers choose how to get their food, convenience (58 per cent) and speed (49 per cent) are the highest drivers.

Klein says convenience is the main attribute consumers want from restaurants, adding that “digital is the way they want to receive that convenience – and their food. The emphasis on touchless service and off-premises dining spiked with Covid-19, but it’s unlikely to return to old levels.”

This could take the ‘chef’s pride’ out in on-premises restaurants, but a robot kitchen or assistant seems more feasible in the fast-food sector.

Buck Jordan, CEO of Miso Robotics, said on Market Scale’s ‘The Main Course’ show that Flippy – the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant – could handle most of the back-of-house cooking, and explained its integration with food-delivery apps.

“It knows when delivery drivers are going to arrive and can calculate when to finish the meal so that it’s ready when the driver arrives,” he said.

Jordan explained the company is working on more automation software for its platform and reducing costs. “Automation is a necessity now for restaurants to keep the doors open,” adding that kitchens could become completely autonomous.

Another company venturing into robot cooks is British venture Moley Kitchens, which unveiled its $340,000 fully autonomous robot kitchen at this year’s virtual CES. As well as in the domestic kitchen, the company plans to commercialise Moley to keep up with the fast QSR environment.

The bot has a pair of robotic arms, developed with German robotic gripping specialist Schunk, and comes with bespoke culinary products like pots and pans, a touch-based induction cooktop and cookware. Chefs actively prepare recipes for live 3D-recording and the Moley system relies on custom algorithms to translate from human to digital movement.

That’s the cooking: what about delivery?

As the shift to takeout and delivery increases, freshness of food that customers receive must be improved, or menus streamlined to include only products that can maintain the ‘just-out-of-the-oven’ look. This means that QSRs could also expand their geographic reach, so will need more efficient ways of delivering to the consumer.

Companies have already been trialling bots, and driverless drones and cars could reduce costs and time in future delivery technology.

Starship Technologies’ robots operate in several cities around the world. They are self-driving and can carry items within a four-mile (6km) radius. The robots deliver parcels, groceries and food directly from stores to homes, at a time the customer requests.

The delivery platform runs entirely on electricity. Once ordered, the robots’ entire journey and location can be monitored on a smartphone. The bot moves at a pedestrian speed, weighs up to 100lb (45kg) and is equipped with sensors and AI to map and understand the world around it. It has an advanced object-detection system running at over 2,000 frames per second, and a mapping system that allows the robot to understand its location to the nearest inch.

In the future, as QSRs extend their geographic reach of delivery and freshness of products, consumers will want to know more about what’s in their food in a way that’s convenient to them.

In the next decade, Cambridge Food Science’s Dr Re reckons consumers will be looking for changes to improve important societal issues such as sustainability, ethical business practices and public health.

She adds: “Quality is also redefined, and products have the challenge to meet enhanced expectation, opening new opportunity for differentiation. Consumers are looking for trust in brands that reflect the individual needs, but also their own personal beliefs.”

In the UK, Dr Re feels consumers are concerned about issues related to the origin of products but struggle to act on this through their purchasing decisions. She says: “Technology such as blockchain allows consumers to know they are supporting companies who share the same values of > < environmental stewardship, sustainable manufacturing and fair ethical trade.

“Consumers are willing to pay a premium for foods that meet such criteria. Smart menus could be connected in real time with the blockchain of food to provide the actual history of specific produce.”

Nutrient composition will also be of importance to people, and tools that allow easy access to information and services “are the ones that appeal the most to consumers”, Dr Re says. “One upcoming change in food regulation for the out-of-home food services is the mandatory requirement of calories on menu. Therefore, technology that can provide the information to help the consumer make the best choice based on their own requirements will help differentiation,” she adds.

The likelihood is, more food will be vegan or made from cultured meat. Re reckons the release of two high-profile reports recommending curbs on meat and dairy intake for health and environmental reasons, combined with mainstream media coverage around the topic, has supported the continued strong growth of the plant-based/ meat-free trend.

She adds that “a plant-based diet resonates with all types of consumers, meaning demand for plant protein is coming not only from vegetarians and vegans”. Food-to-go giants including KFC and McDonald’s have launched new plant-based options.

As well as greatly reducing the slaughter of animals, manufacturing meat products through tissue-engineering technology means meat grown in an aseptic environment “has the advantage of food safety and can be modulated to be ‘healthier’ by controlling the nutritional content, removing the bad, such as saturated fats, and replacing them with the good, such as Omega oils”, says Re. “Increased accessibility demonstrates the opportunity to appeal to a much broader consumer base this is not just a trend but is now the norm to be able to find a vegan option.” She does say, however, that prices of meat-free items must become cheaper to encourage consumers to eat more plant-based fast-food meals.

It seems the winning formula to keep QSRs in business, for now and in the future, is digital integration and engagement, open communication with consumers, and, according to Deloitte’s report, visible cleanliness and safety. Customers don’t just want to be told that their food is coming from a hygienic environment, they want to see it.

Four out of five people surveyed by Deloitte said they’d be more likely to patronise a restaurant if they knew what steps it was taking to enhance cleanliness, food safety, or guest safety, and when they did they would be willing to pay an average of 10 per cent more. Therefore, if the customer is seeing the changes made to keep everyone safe, they will be more likely to return.

Prior to the pandemic, there was already a rising demand for digital engagement and more convenient service from customers. Yet Covid-19 has seemingly accelerated the advancements in technology for QSRs all over the world, and many changes are expected to stay.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Top 11 Reasons for Fast Food's Popularity

Dec. 2, 2008 -- Fast food lives up to its name in a new study of people who frequently eat at fast-food restaurants.

Nearly 600 adults and teens in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were interviewed for the study in 2005-2006. Most reported eating fast food at least three times per week.

After tucking into a meal at a fast-food restaurant, participants rated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with 11 statements about why they like fast food.

Here are their top reasons for eating fast-food meals, according to the percentages of people who agreed with each statement:

  1. They're quick: 92.3%
  2. They're easy to get to: 80.1%
  3. I like the taste of fast food: 69.2%
  4. They're inexpensive: 63.6%
  5. I'm too busy to cook: 53.2%
  6. It's a "treat" for myself: 50.1%
  7. I don't like to prepare foods myself: 44.3%
  8. My friends/family like them: 41.8%
  9. It is a way of socializing with friends and family: 33.1%
  10. They have many nutritious foods to offer: 20.6%
  11. They're fun and entertaining: 11.7%


The "I'm too busy to cook" line was more popular among people with college degrees than people with less education. And young adults were less likely than older adults to say they ate fast food because it offered many nutritious choices.

Still, the results boil down to speed and convenience at one end of the spectrum, and nutrition and fun at the other end. Bridging that gap means coming up with speedy, nutritious alternatives, suggest the researchers, who included Sarah Rydell, MPH, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Their findings appear in December's edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.


Rydell, S. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, December 2008 vol 108: pp 2066-2070.

1 in 3 American Adults Eat Fast Food Each Day

by William E. Gibson, AARP, October 3, 2018 | Comments: 0

More than one-third of American adults eat fast food on any given day, despite warnings about its impact on health and obesity, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Wednesday. The rate is especially high for young adults and gradually drops with age.

“Fast-food consumption has been associated with increased intake of calories, fat and sodium,” the CDC noted while reporting the prevalence of what medical experts have long considered an unhealthy eating habit, often associated with diabetes and heart disease.

But it’s cheap, quick, convenient and readily available, the report added, explaining fast food’s lasting popularity.

The study, the first federal examination of adult fast-food eating habits, is based on a survey of about 10,000 adults from 2013 to 2016.

Almost half (44.9 percent) of 20- to 39-year-olds eat fast food on a given day, the survey found. The rate drops to 37.7 percent for those ages 40 to 59 and to 24.1 percent for those 60 and older.

Older men (25.6 percent) are slightly more likely than older women (22.7 percent) to make fast food a daily habit.

Among all adults surveyed:

• African American adults (42.4 percent) had a higher rate of fast-food consumption than non-Hispanic whites (37.6 percent). Somewhat lower rates were found for Hispanic adults (35.5 percent) and Asians (30.6 percent).

• The rich are more likely than the poor to turn to fast food. Some 42 percent of higher-income adults eat it on a given day, and the rate drops to 36.4 percent for those of middle income and to 31.7 percent for those of lower income.

• Adults eat fast food most often at lunch (43.7 percent), followed by dinner (42.0 percent), breakfast (22.7 percent) and as a snack (22.6 percent).

Top Fast-Food Picks for People with Diabetes

Fast food is not off-limits for people with diabetes, but knowing what to order makes all the difference. Check out our top picks for healthier eating at fast-food restaurants including McDonald's, Subway, Wendy's and more.

Fast-food joints get a bad reputation for serving up foods high in carbs, sodium, fat and sugar-but that doesn&apost mean a trip to Wendy&aposs has to be completely off the table, even if you have diabetes. After all, fast food does have its benefits-like convenience and consistent quality wherever you go-and sometimes it&aposs the only option for a meal if you&aposre on a road trip or stuck in an airport.

You don&apost have to stick to plain grilled chicken or salads either-there&aposs room for a burger with fries too! To help you navigate the drive-thru with diabetes, we&aposre sharing dietitian-approved menu recommendations for each of the most popular chains, plus expert ordering tips to help you find a meal that will fill you up without sabotaging your blood sugar. The next time you&aposre faced with a fast-food menu, you&aposll be prepared to make a smart choice to fit your lifestyle, satisfy cravings and support your individual dietary needs.

Get the info you need to get creative

If you&aposre craving a burger, order a junior-size patty and toss half the bun to spare some carbs. (Ask for a knife and fork to make an open-face burger less messy). Curious how many carbs you&aposd spare by ditching the bun? Most fast-food restaurants have very user-friendly online menus that allow you to build customized creations and view nutrition info for your entire meal in real time, or to search for items based on specific criteria, like "under 500 calories," "at least 10 grams protein" or "sodium less than 800 mg," etc.

Check the condiments and dressings

Watching sodium intake? Carefully consider the condiments, which are often hidden sources of sodium, sugar and carbs (for example, a Burger King ketchup packet has 125 mg of the salty stuff). And be aware that low-calorie and/or low-fat salad dressing typically relies on added sugar for flavor, so be sure to check the label before pouring it over your salad. Drizzle-don&apost dump-to save sugar and carbs, or stash a healthier dressing option in your bag to use instead.

Don't supersize it-but don't overly restrict yourself either

It&aposs a no-brainer that you should stay away from supersized portions, sugary sodas and desserts when dining at a fast-food restaurant. But you don&apost have to restrict yourself to iceberg lettuce and grilled chicken, either. If you keep a too-tight rein on your cravings, it can often lead to overeating or binge-eating later. It&aposs better to honor your craving mindfully, tuning in to hunger cues and fully enjoying every bite of your treat.

Best fast-food options for people with diabetes

What to order at Taco Bell:

2 Fresco-Style Soft Tacos with Fire-Grilled Chicken (not shredded)
Add tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pico de gallo. If you add the optional hot sauce, it adds 90 mg sodium. Adding guacamole adds 70 calories, 210 mg sodium, 6 g fat and 3 g carbs.

TOTAL (2 tacos): 300 cals, 8 g fat, 2.5 g sat fat, 910 mg sodium, 36 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 22 g protein

2 Fresco-Style Crunchy Beef Tacos
Hold the cheese, but add lettuce, tomato, pico de gallo and onion. Add an order of black beans for 5 grams of filling fiber, 80 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 12 grams carbs, 200 mg sodium and 3 grams protein.

TOTAL (2 tacos): 310 cals, 15 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 610 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 13 g protein

Power Menu Bowl – Veggie

TOTAL: 480 cals, 19 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 940 mg sodium, 65 g carbs, 13 g fiber, 14 g protein

Vegetarian Double Tostada

TOTAL: 270 cals, 11 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 660 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 12 g protein

Boost nutrition at Taco Bell:

  • Ask to make your meal "fresco style" and you&aposll receive fresh pico de gallo instead of higher-calorie sauces, cheese or guacamole (although, of all those options, guacamole adds beneficial healthy fats). All items on the "Fresco Menu" are less than 350 calories and 10 grams of fat-just remember they still have a lot of sodium.
  • If you&aposre craving chips, choose the chips with pico de gallo for a total of 170 calories, 8 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 170 mg sodium, 22 g carbs, 3 g fiber and 2 g protein.
  • Add a side of black beans to boost the fiber content of your meal (black beans add 80 calories, 1.5 g fat, 12 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 200 mg sodium, 3 g protein).
  • Choose lower-sodium fresh pico de gallo over the various salsas.
  • Choose guacamole over cheese or sour cream to get heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
  • Increase the heat without raising sodium levels too high with a packet of hot sauce (35 mg sodium) versus jalapeños, which add a whopping 240 mg of sodium.
  • Items labeled "XXL" or "Double Stacked" likely won&apost fit into any healthful diet-so skip those when skimming the menu.
  • Cinnabon Delights (served as a 2-pack) are a sweet treat that won&apost totally derail your diabetes goals, especially if you share them with a friend: 160 cals, 9 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 80 mg sodium, 17 g carbs, 10 g sugars, 2 g protein).

What to order at Burger King:

Comes with pickles, ketchup and mustard. If you want cheese on your hamburger, ordering a cheeseburger will add 40 calories, 3 g fat, 2.5 g sat fat, 180 mg sodium, 2 g carbs and 2 g protein.

TOTAL: 460 cals, 19 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 720 mg sodium, 57 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 15 g protein

Whopper Jr.
Ask for no cheese or mayo on your burger.

TOTAL: 240 cals, 10 g fat, 3.5 g sat fat, 330 mg sodium, 27 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 13 g protein

MorningStar Farms Veggie Burger
Ask to hold the mayo. This sandwich is a great source of plant-based protein and provides a decent amount of fiber, but it&aposs not always on the main menu so you might have to ask for it.

TOTAL: 310 cals, 8 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 910 mg sodium, 41 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 21 g protein

Tips for dining at Burger King:

  • Order a Side Garden Salad. It comes with shredded cheese that adds 45 calories, 4 g fat and 85 mg sodium. Skip the crouton packet and use half a packet of Lite Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette (half of the package contains 60 calories, 4 g fat, 110 mg sodium and 7 g carbs).
  • Craving fries or onion rings? Choose a side from the "Value Size" menu, as these items are the most modestly portioned (and priced!), even compared to a "small" order. For example, a value-size order of onion rings is 150 calories, 8 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat and 400 mg sodium. A value-size order of (unsalted) french fries is 220 calories, 9 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 210 mg sodium, 34 g carbs and 2 g protein.
  • Hidden source of sodium? Ketchup! One packet or serving adds 125 mg sodium and 3 g carbs, so be conservative with that and any other condiments.

What to order at Chipotle:

Salad Bowl with Chicken
Have the black beans, double fajita veggies, extra lettuce and tomatillo green-chili salsa. This is a low-calorie, high-protein, high-fiber meal-what&aposs not to love?

Ask for a half portion of guacamole (115 calories, 11 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 4 g carbs, 3 g fiber and 185 mg sodium), which adds flavor and provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to better aid in nutrient absorption. It also makes it easy to skip caloric dressings-simply top your salad with the salsa and guacamole and give it a stir for a creamy, delicious alternative to salad dressing.

TOTAL (without guacamole): 370 cals, 8.5 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 1,080 mg sodium, 37 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 42 g protein

Make It a Veggie Bowl
If you&aposre a vegetarian, order the Salad Bowl with Chicken, but simply ask for a double portion of black beans instead of chicken.

Make the most out of eating at Chipotle:

  • The great part about Chipotle&aposs made-to-order menu is that you can ask for a half portion of any starchy carbs, like rice or beans, or omit them altogether. It&aposs a simple request that makes fitting a few chips into your meal much more reasonable.
  • Go with Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa over the tomato-based salsa options , which are twice as high in sodium (260 mg per serving compared to around 500 mg respectively).
  • Craving something crunchy? Instead of the easy-to-overeat portion of chips, ask for a single crunchy taco shell. It&aposs the perfect size for crushing over your salad or using to scoop some of that guac. The shell only adds 67 calories, 10 g carbs, 3 g fat and no sodium compared to a full order of chips, with more than 500 calories and upwards of 350 mg sodium. There&aposs also a smaller portion of chips available on the kids&apos menu (140 cals, 6 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 95 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein), as well as the option of swapping seasonal fruit (like blueberries or a mandarin orange) for the chips.

What to order at Starbucks:

Tomato & Mozzarella Panini
It&aposs hard to beat the combination of fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil-especially when it&aposs served warm on toasted focaccia and has less than 400 calories. Pair it with the Seasonal Fruit Blend cup for extra antioxidants and fiber.

TOTAL: 350 cals, 13 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 580 mg sodium, 42 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 15 g protein

Eggs + Cheese Protein Box
Cage-free hard-boiled eggs, sliced tart apples, grapes and white Cheddar cheese with multigrain muesli bread and honey peanut butter combine to make this a perfect grab-and-go option.

TOTAL: 470 cals, 25 f fat, 7 g sat fat, 540 mg sodium, 40 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 21 g sugar, 23 g protein

Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl with Black Beans and Greens
This bowl is full of wholesome ingredients, plus enough protein and fiber to satisfy your hunger for hours. Use half the dressing to lower the sodium content or skip it entirely and buy the "Avocado Spread" for a creamy, heart-healthy dressing with 90 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g carbs, 4 g fiber and 210 mg sodium.

TOTAL: 420 cals, 17 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 1,030 mg sodium, 42 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 27 g protein

Make your next Starbucks run a little healthier:

  • Skip the sugary pastries and packaged snacks lining the shelves. Instead, focus on the refrigerated case of fresh food for the best grab-and-go options.
  • Use the website&aposs nutrition calculator to sort items via "Health and Wellness Options," including fat (10 grams or less), fiber (at least 3 grams), protein (at least 10 grams), and sodium (600 mg or less).

What to order at McDonald&aposs

The Filet-O-Fish is lower in sodium than other sandwiches and provides 17 satiating grams of protein. If you leave off the tartar sauce, you&aposll spare 90 calories and 10 grams of fat-but personally we think the tartar sauce makes the sandwich. If you decide to keep the tartar sauce on the sandwich, just account for those calories and fat grams somewhere else.

TOTAL: 390 cals, 19 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 560 mg sodium, 38 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 17 g protein

Classic Cheeseburger
If you&aposre craving a burger, choose the cheeseburger over more elaborate options with over-the-top add-ons like bacon, barbecue sauce or fried onion rings.

TOTAL: 300 cals, 12 g fat, 6 g sat fat, 680 mg sodium, 33 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 15 g protein

Make it a more diabetes-friendly meal:

  • Add a side salad for extra veggies, but go easy on the dressing if you&aposre trying to follow low-sodium recommendations. Most of McDonald&aposs dressing packets have more than 400 mg sodium per serving. The best choice for calories, carbs and sodium is Newman&aposs Own Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (35 cals, 4 g carbs, 400 mg sodium) or get creative and ask for a packet of Honey Mustard Sauce, which has 50 calories and only 95 mg sodium.
  • If you want to add fries, choose the Kids Fries-at only 110 calories, 5 g fat, 80 mg sodium and 15 g carbs, they fit within these meal guidelines.

Pick Two: Half Sandwich and Half Salad
This combo is fabulous in that it gives you a taste of a few items without going overboard on calories, carbs or sodium. Stick to a simple sandwich versus the more elaborate paninis (these are often premade with rich sauces and extra meat or cheese) and pair it with either half salad below. And don&apost be fooled: While soup might seem like a healthy option, a closer look reveals that nearly all of Panera&aposs soups are full of unnecessary salt.

The following sandwiches fall within the nutrition criteria and, when paired with one of the recommended salads, keep totals under 500 calories, 50 g carbs and 700 mg sodium.

Turkey on Whole Grain
This is your best choice overall ask for no mayo to lower calories and fat. Add 1-2 slices of fresh avocado if desired.

TOTAL (1/2 sandwich): 270 cals, 8 g fat, 1.5 gg sat fat, 590 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 18 g protein

Napa Almond Chicken Salad on Country Rustic

TOTAL (1/2 sandwich): 310 cals, 16 g fat, 2.5 g sat fat, 340 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 11 g protein

Steak & Arugula on Sourdough

TOTAL (1/2 sandwich): 240 cals, 8 g fat, 3.5 g sat fat, 440 mg sodium, 25 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 16 g protein

These half-salads are a great choice to pair with the half-and-half deal.

Asian Sesame with Chicken Salad

TOTAL (1/2 salad): 210 cals, 11 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 270 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 16 g protein

Seasonal Greens Salad

TOTAL (1/2 salad): 90 cals, 6 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 75 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein

These dressings are your best choice (serving size is a half portion, or 1 1/2 tablespoons).

Asian Sesame Vinaigrette (45 cals, 4 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 100 mg sodium, 2 g carbs)

Chili Lime Rojo Ranch (40 cals, 3 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 1 g carbs, 60 mg sodium)

Green Goddess (60 cals, 5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 70 mg sodium, 1 g carbs)

Thai Chili Vinaigrette (25 cals, 1 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 95 mg sodium, 5 g carbs)

Grilled Chicken Wrap
With hearty grilled chicken strips, Cheddar cheese, lettuce and smoky honey mustard sauce on a flour tortilla, this sandwich is similar to the classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich, except that the flour tortilla is lower in carbs than a bun-even with the addition of smoky honey mustard sauce. For a nutritious side and a fiber boost, get the vitamin-C-packed Apple Bites. If you simply can&apost resist fries or a Frosty, order the Junior size, which is the smallest portion available.

TOTAL: 300 cals, 13 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 720 mg sodium, 26 g carbs, 2 g fiber

Jr. Cheeseburger

TOTAL: 280 cals, 13 g fat, 6 g sat fat, 26 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 16 g protein

Eating at Subway? Look to the "Fresh Fit" menu, with eight sandwiches that each provide 24 grams of whole grains and two servings of vegetables for less than 400 calories. While Subway offers numerous bread choices, the 9-Grain Wheat and Multigrain Flatbread have the lowest sodium, highest fiber and most whole grains.

6-Inch Rotisserie-Style Chicken on 9-Grain Wheat
Our top pick for a sandwich is the 6-inch Rotisserie Chicken on 9-Grain Wheat with the standard vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, red onion, cucumbers and green peppers). The hearty rotisserie chicken feels more substantial than deli meat, yet it&aposs only 310 calories, Make it more filling by asking for double veggies, and steer clear of the pickles, jalapeños, banana peppers and especially sauerkraut, all of which will add 100-200 mg of sodium to your sandwich. The condiments with the lowest sugar content include tangy red-wine vinegar or lite mayo.

TOTAL: 310 cals, 6 g fat, 2.5 g sat fat, 560 mg sodium, 40 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 20 g protein

Choose healthier toppings:
For a sweet-tasting sauce that won&apost send blood sugars skyrocketing, try the Fat-Free Honey Mustard Sauce (30 cals, 120 mg sodium, 7 grams carbs, 6 grams sugars availability varies by location). Instead of cheese, add avocado for good-for-you-fat that promotes nutrient absorption. Apple slices are a great alternative to salty potato chips, but if you&aposre craving that crunch, pick the Baked Lay&aposs.

Menu items and nutrition facts are up-to-date as of May 31, 2019. Check online and in-store menus for current availability and nutrition.

The Top 10 Trends In Plant-Based Food In 2020—And Where We’re Going In 2021

Plant-based meat was just one of many trends in the vegan category to skyrocket this year.

Hindsight is 20/20, and 2020 is almost in hindsight–fortunately, if you ask most of us. But despite the considerable challenges we’ve faced together this past year, both economically and personally, it’s also been a year of tremendous strength and growth. Businesses have had to adapt to rapid changes in culture and lifestyle, local laws and regulations, and ideologies and social issues.

And while 2020 sadly marked the closure of many businesses due to the pressures of COVID-19, especially small businesses, loss wasn’t all our industry experienced this year. Thanks to the right mixture of luck, circumstances, dedication, and ingenuity, we’ve seen new brands, products, trends, interests, and demands appear in the world of consumer food choices this year.

What few can deny is that 2020 has been a pivotal, influential year in ways we likely don’t even realize yet, within the plant-based food space and far beyond. Here are some of the trends and changes we observed this year, and where we might see them go in 2021.

More and more vegan companies are providing everyday solutions to plastic pollution.

Brands are ditching plastic

While you may not immediately know it given the amount of shipping and single-serve packaging we’ve gone through this year with our various COVID-19 precautions, plastic is indeed still on its way out. As consumers have become more aware of the effects of plastic waste on the environment, companies that produce food and personal care items have been asked how their packaging plays into the issue. Consumers buying vegan food and cruelty-free cosmetics, for instance, likely already have a demonstrated interest in environmental issues, so it only follows that brands in those spaces can win consumers over with more sustainable packaging – which is itself expected to become a $412.7 billion industry by 2021, according to this recent article published by NASDAQ.

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Plastic has repeatedly been found to be the material least likely to be recycled, according to governmental data cited in the above report. So, some brands are ditching it completely in favor of paper-based packaging, at least as much as possible. The North Carolina-based vegan meat brand No Evil Foods, for instance, shrink-wraps their veggie meats for freshness, but uses a simple cardboard box for the outer packaging. Between consumer pressure and the support of environmentally-minded venture capitalists, it’s only a matter of time before many more of our favorite products are biodegradable.

Carbon labeling has become a reality

To some, it felt revolutionary when calorie counts became permanent fixtures on fast food menus in the early aughts. Now, some companies are practicing a new kind of radical transparency. Contemporary research as early as 2012, like this study published in Carbon Management Journal, has shown that shoppers in large markets are on the whole very interested in knowing more about the contents of their food and the kind of environmental impact it has. Much the way calories have become shorthand (sometimes useful, sometimes not) for how healthy a food is, carbon emission calculations have the potential to provide concise and actionable information for consumers. As brands in the vegetarian space continue to opt-in to carbon labeling, like Quorn and Oatly have done this year, we’ll see if that potential comes to fruition.

Cooking plant-forward scratch meals at home with became a more regular occurrence during the . [+] pandemic.

According to the FMI Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization focusing on food, public health, and nutrition, 40% of Americans reported cooking more than usual since the start of the pandemic. As restaurants around the country have faced restrictions and closures, cooking at home has become a practical (as well as, often, healthy and fun) solution for feeding the family while saving money in precarious economic times. That’s been an opportunity for meal kit delivery services, which make meal planning and prepping easier for busy folks. Blue Apron, one such service with vegetarian options, enjoyed a surge in stock value this spring as consumers realized the pandemic and no-brainer meals at home were a perfect pairing. In fact, the meal kit delivery service market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 18% between now and 2024 – good news for other brands like Hungryroot and Sun Basket, which continue to expand their reach, menus, and notably, their vegan options.

. And Eating Out

All of that said, it’s hard to deny that Americans have been chomping at the bit to get back to pre-COVID-19 habits and luxuries like dining out at restaurants. It’s been an incredibly rough year for the restaurant industry, which has been subjected to mandatory closures, curfews, safety restrictions, and economic strife. It’s hard to know exactly what 2021 will look like for restaurants, and when exactly COVID-19 will truly be behind us, but at this rate all signs point to heightened demand when that time comes. For all of our renewed interest in cooking this year, as many as 55% of Americans are experiencing “cooking fatigue” from whipping up meal after meal, day after day of living and working from home. When people finally feel safe enough to eat in restaurants again, we may see a surge in on-site food and beverage sales.

Plant-based chicken went mainstream in 2020.

2020 was the year of the (vegan) chicken. 2021 will be fish

Vegans and vegetarians have been making chicken substitutes out of wheat and soy for ages. But this year saw the introduction of some new premade, easy-to-work-with proteins that could make real chicken a thing of the past. Daring Foods released their 100% plant-based chicken pieces, and SIMULATE Foods released their Nuggs 2.0 vegan chick’n nuggets. California-based Alpha Foods makes a number of frozen prepared meals, but they also make chick’n nuggets, strips, and patties for quickly throwing some vegan protein into a meal. These products are easy to use by design, meant to provide a simple swap for those looking to opt out of supporting the poultry industry or just looking to reduce their cholesterol intake.

Next year, expect to see more development of vegan fish products. A few brands, like Good Catch and Sophie’s Kitchen, already have their fishless tuna and other products on grocery store shelves. Much like the chicken substitutes we saw succeed this year, these seafood alternatives are easy swaps for actual fish, making them familiar and intelligible to even non-vegan shoppers.

Egg alternatives will continue to expand

Much the way juicy, savory plant-based meat became the hottest product of 2019, by now working its way onto the menus of chain restaurants and mom-and-pop stands alike, vegan egg alternatives have exploded in 2020. From the makers of the highly popular JUST Mayo came JUST Egg, a plant-based food that comes in liquid form as well as premade, frozen patties. Within just months, JUST Egg became available at grocery stores around the country as well as in restaurants of all scales, and they’re already scaling up by building a $120 million facility in Singapore to meet the demand of the Asian market. But they’re not running uncontested: keep an eye on names like Noblegen from Canada, with its algae-based, powdered product “the egg,” as well as Israel’s Zero Egg, which is already planning its entry into the U.S. market. New research linking overconsumption of eggs to Type 2 diabetes is only the latest bit of information making the vegan egg market such a highly anticipated playing field right now.

Gone are the days when only staple plant-based milks were around.

More ingredients, more options

If you thought almond, oat, hemp, cashew, rice, and soy milks were enough to complete the milk alternative selection, think again. Chefs and food tech innovators continue to experiment with new and different ingredients for basic uses, like milks, and cooking oils too. If you haven’t already, expect to see new kinds of nut milk on the shelves of your local grocery store – like pistachio, for instance. Additionally, according to data released this month by Instacart, the high-fat keto diet is still popular and influential among Americans, which might explain why shoppers are enjoying so many plant-based oils. Coconut oil has become a hot product in the last few years, with avocado, hemp, macadamia, pumpkin seed, and other culinary blends hitting stores more recently.

Pills aren't the only delivery system for vitamins anymore.

Vitamin-enriched everything

This was the year that lots of food and wellness brands decided that adults deserve to take their vitamins in the form of candy, too. In fact, it was the year that vitamins became. fun? Trendy brands like Ritual and Hims have reimagined vitamins and supplements in sleek, minimalist packaging made to appeal to millennials. Nutrition brand Sakara took it a step further when they decided that probiotics could come in the form of chocolate bonbons. And Antidote Chocolate markets their high-cacao, low-sugar content chocolate bars as healthy, stress-relieving snacks. So too does Sourse, which infuses B-12 and plant-based collagen in its dark chocolates. Brands are learning that even grown-ups don’t want to choke down gross vitamins. And thanks to these and more forthcoming products, they don’t have to.

Adaptogens are the latest health craze

Feel like you’ve heard the word “adaptogen” before, but aren’t sure what it really means? You’re not alone, and now’s a good time to learn, because this trend is far from over. Adaptogens are substances that help counteract the effects of stress on the central nervous system by moving the body towards homeostasis, theoretically having antidepressant, anti-fatigue, and stimulating effects. The jury is still out on what, if any, health benefits adaptogens actually provide, but skepticism doesn’t seem to be slowing down the trend, as they are finding themselves in everything from coffee (like in Four Sigmatic) and protein bars (like in B.T.R. Bars).

As young adults continue to fuel the “sober curious” movement (it’s worth noting here that the non-alcoholic beverage market is expected to grow by 32% from 2018 to 2022), adaptogenic drinks have the chance to become the next big thing. Proponents of adaptogenic beverages, made by brands like Kin Euphorics and Proposition Cocktail Co., swear that the adaptogens offer a relaxing, sociable feeling without the many downsides of alcohol.

Regenerative agriculture is the new gold standard

After decades of public education about the effects of climate change, it’s little wonder that consumers have come to demand better products and practices from the companies to which they hand their money over. It’s not enough anymore for our food and other products to have a low environmental impact nowadays, the goal is to have a positive environmental impact. Regenerative agriculture uses techniques that enrich soil rather than deplete it, like crop rotation and cover crops, making the land sustainably fertile. Around the world, governments and nonprofits are pouring their support into regenerative agriculture efforts in hopes that it will help mitigate the issues of climate change and feeding the world’s population, and companies like chocolate-maker Alter Eco and plant-based dairy purveyor milkadamia are backing them.

The food future of 2021 is in our hands.

Looking ahead

Every year brings change, but 2020 in particular has made us rethink and rework so many aspects of our food systems, the restaurant industry, even what we put in our own bodies. It’s encouraging to see the shifts, big and small, that brands are committing to for the sake of the environment, animals, and workers. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what 2021 will bring.

Breakfast Sandwich

Some of the ingredients listed for what one national outlet calls a “fried egg” include modified corn starch, soybean oil, medium chain triglycerides, propylene glycol, artificial flavor, citric acid, xanthan gum, and -- oh yeah -- egg whites and yolks (listed separately). If you didn’t bargain for all of that, ask for the propylene glycol (also used in fog machines and to make polyester) on the side.

42 Cult Favorite Items From Whole Foods Only True Fans Know To Buy

It's no secret that Whole Foods is a place where dreams come true (. especially for Amazon Prime members). Here are some absolute cult favorites from the most heavenly of grocery stores.

Whole Foods has been big on cage-free produce for more than a decade, but they've since widened that to add other qualifications their 365 Everyday Value eggs are pasture-raised, too.

There's not much the store doesn't have in terms of non-dairy milk alternatives. Their wide selection of almond milk, in particular, is super popular.

Like we said. So. Many. Dairy. Alternatives. When the oat milk craze first kicked off, Whole Foods stocked up on items from brands like cult-favorite Califia Farms.

Have you had these delightful crunchy chickpea morsels? Do you know what it's like to be ALIVE?

Kite Hill makes its cream cheese style spreads from nuts, and Whole Foods is known to carry a huge selection.

When you consider the fact that these nuts have 70 percent less sugar than traditional chocolate-covered almonds, you can almost convince yourself they're a health food.

Not only is there just about every flavor of cereal (or a 365 version of them), but they're much cheaper than they typically are at other stores.

A super niche product, but one that certain people would die for. Whole Foods has been on the ghee beat for awhile now.

Again, there are about a million peanut butter brands at Whole Foods, but their 365 Everyday Products peanut butter is (1) healthy, and (2) tastes luxuriously good. Justin's gets an honorable mention, though. Hi @Justin, ilu.

The gourmet Indian food brand, Sukhi's, has fans for daaaays. Although this quick tikka masala meal is a favorite, their Indian-style street wraps (found in the freezer section) are also amazing. The veggie samosa one, in particular, is a joy.

Quite honestly the most delicious snack dessert to ever exist.

Don't sleep on the Whole Foods beauty department&mdashin particular their soaps are amazing. The scents of A La Maison de Provence will send you on a trip to France, while Goodsoap is an all-time Whole Foods fav.

Another house line that's 100 percent worth buying. Their frozen fruit selection is A+ and makes a million lives easier every day, just about.

Delicious, nutritious, and exclusive to Whole Foods.

There are plenty of chip substitutes out there, but none are more addictive than Dang Coconut Chips. The thin, wispy slices of coconut meat will have you close to swearing off junk food altogether.

Aaand while you're juggling your coconut oil and coconut chips, you might wanna pick up some of this good stuff too. Trust us, you won't regret it.

If you find yourself in the snack aisle, don't forget to grab these sweet 'n' salty delights. But you already knew to do that!

These gluten-free options are always available at Whole Foods.

Are you even human if you walk through a Whole Foods bread and pastry section and don't buy. all of it?

Though Health-Ade's not cheap, it is delicious and frequently on sale at Whole Foods.

Both the salad bar and hot bars are so fresh and fancy, it's easy to get carried away. Whole Foods experts know to take advantage of the scales the store puts all around those areas and how to best hack it so their lunch is closer to $7 than $17.

Though there are plenty of rice options at Whole Foods, people swear by the texture and natural sweetness of this brand's product specifically.

The store's nuts, spices, powders, and snacks are easily accessible and allow for relatively cheap bulk buying, considering what you're getting. This from a girl who once went on a month-long goji-berry-on-everything kick . and spent about $20 in the process.

Those who love fall-flavored things know the 365 pumpkin spice yogurt is the only acceptable way to get that pumpkin flare into your breakfast.

Food Trends Forecast 2021: Being Healthy In A Post Covid-19 World

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the frailties of the food world and its supply chain. For many people this has been the first time in their lives they went into our supermarkets and couldn’t buy toilet paper or flour or cow’s milk or their favorite brands and now, the latest shortages – frozen pizza and pepperoni! In some stores many shelves were bare and shoppers felt scared and shocked about the possibilities of having no food to feed their families.

DUNKIRK, MARYLAND - MARCH 13: Shelves normally stocked with chicken and meats sit empty at a Giant . [+] Supermarket store as people stockpile supplies due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) March 13, 2020 in Dunkirk, Maryland. The U.S. government is racing to make more coronavirus test kits available as schools close around the country, sporting events are canceled, and businesses encourage workers to telecommute where possible. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

We have a pandemic. We have an economic recession. We have global warming. As of October 1, 2020, we have over 44,000 wildfires in the United States that have burned at almost eight million acres and the fires are still spreading, according to the National Interagency Fire Center – and many of those acres are farmlands where our food is grown and livestock raised.

In the face of the uncertainty of just how long the pandemic will last, or if there will be a stronger second (or third) wave as is being predicted, it is imperative that the food industry – from farm to fork – prepare strategies for the new future and understand the concerns, needs and emotions of shoppers. A survey conducted by Acosta found that if the pandemic does again force public lockdowns, 53% of Americans say they will stockpile groceries, hygienic products and school supplies, and that is an increase of 15% of respondents who said they stockpiled at the start of the pandemic.

Our supermarkets responded quickly putting in place enhanced sanitation procedures, signage, minimizing in-store traffic and especially expanding fledgling e-commerce efforts all the while focused on building trust and confidence from their customers who remain deeply concerned about food availability amid rising prices coupled with a high unemployment rate.

And at the same time, these retailers are trying to meet the needs of adults who are faced with working at home, while tending to the needs of their school aged children - who may be attending classes on line, or have limited school days, or wondering if their schools will even open – all the while trying to balance good eating habits with satisfying their families emotional needs. Forcing a new business model on supermarkets.

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The shopping experience has changed dramatically which is why I sat down with (over Zoom of course) Markus Stripf, Co-CEO of Spoon Guru in the UK to produce this analysis and understand how the grocery world and consumers will be shifting their priorities.

There is little doubt that Covid-19 has woken up Americans in many ways. The first is a new understanding of what and how they eat and how these foods and beverages have a significant effect on their stamina, strength and immunity to fight off viruses and other health abnormalities. Shoppers have changed how they are choosing their foods with a new yearning for reading labels, understanding what ingredients are in their foods, where there foods come from and which foods they should avoid.

The International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey findings echo Stripf’s COVID-era analysis and prediction that the industry must build trust and help stressed households achieve their wellness goals.

· 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those 50+, care more about the healthfulness of their food and beverage choices in 2020 than did in 2010 healthfulness is the biggest mover, more so than taste and price.

· Active dieting has grown this year as they look at their scales and find their jeans a little too snug as they work from home, snack more often and indulge to feel emotionally more stable – to 43% of Americans, up from 38% in 2019 and 36% in 2018.

· 18% of Americans use an app or health monitoring device to track their physical activity, food consumption or overall health 45% of users say it helps greatly 66% say it led to healthy changes they otherwise wouldn’t have made.

· 26% of U.S. consumers snack multiple times a day, and another third snack at least once daily 38% say they replace meals with snacks (usually lunch) at least occasionally.

· 28% of Americans eat more proteins from plant sources vs. 2019, 24% eat more plant-based dairy, and 17% eat more plant-based meat alternatives.

· 74% of Americans try to limit sugar intake in 2020, down from 80% in 2019.

Another trend coming out of Covid-19 is that a significant amount of Americans want to go back to a pre- Covid weight (and in some cases reduce their weight) as a major health goal. But the only way they will succeed, based on Spoon Guru’s prediction, will be based on a combination of three things: CAPABILITY, OPPORTUNITY and MOTIVATION.

Capability is defined as the individual's psychological and physical capacity to engage in the activity concerned. It includes having the necessary knowledge and skills.

Opportunity is defined as all the factors that lie outside the individual that make the behavior possible or prompt it.

Motivation is defined as all those brain processes that energize and direct behavior, not just goals and conscious decision-making which we know every January 1 st are made with good intentions, and within 45 days are forgotten. It includes habitual processes, emotional responding, as well as analytical decision-making.

It is these interactions that lead to behavior change and the food technologies that we spoke of earlier, are today’s tools and enablers that can support shoppers in achieving these goals.

But here is the problem – the desire is there – but not the knowledge. Enter the insights shoppers can glean from retailers who fuel their search and apps across the globe using Spoon Guru. Four out of 10 millennial global consumers already say health claims on brands confuse them, according to the GlobalData research. Imagine the flood of questions that supermarket managers and their retail dietitians will be bombarded with when blends of supplements AND foods include proven immunity enhancers like Vitamins A, C, D, E and zinc appear on shelves.

Life under the cloud of COVID-19 has intensified the search for immunity-strengthening foods and supplements. A GlobalData survey in June 2020 found that 80% of global consumers are understandably concerned about COVID-19, and 23% admit they’ve stockpiled more vitamins and supplements recently.

Immune function ties with muscle health/strength as the #5 benefit health-motivated eaters seek from food International Food Information Council data shows from a survey of 1,011 U.S. adults fielded April 8-16, 2020. These health seekers cite immune function 40% of the time, a rate that trails only weight management (62%), energy (57%), and digestive (46%) and heart health (44%) as a food-centered objective.

The reality of what we’ve seen during the pandemic is the return to comfort foods and familiar brands that made them feel calm and comfortable – brands with a long heritage that solidified their reputations for being safe and a sure bet – shoppers knew what to expect from them - and part of it was that they just plain tasted great. And they were on the shelves.

One sector of the food business that experienced a huge benefit from the pandemic are comfort foods which has been a boon for those iconic food brands that have seen their sales decline over the past few years as shoppers shifted to smaller upstart brands that had more innovate recipes, more exciting flavors, healthier profiles with more sustainable and simple ingredients. People gravitated to the brands they knew, that they grew up with, those that their families bought for generations.

This is an unbelievable opportunity for these iconic brands.

The looming question is whether these brands will take advantage of this surge in sales, and new found hipness and awareness especially from the baby boomers who grew up on these foods to latter leave them as their awareness of ingredients and health concerns grew closer as they aged - and reformulate and reimagine their products to be healthier – and save their brands from oblivion.

A survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Sensodyne toothpaste, found 74 percent of respondents said cooking has been a successful coping mechanism for them as they deal with the stress of being home. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said they have even learned a new recipe during quarantine and 32 percent have taken an online cooking class.

Pre-pandemic, the average shopper visited a food store 2.3 times a week and spent on average about 20 minutes per shopping trip. Enjoying the aromas and colors of the produce department, sampling new products, learning how to prepare a new recipe and consulting with a retail dietitian led to enhanced and satisfying shopping experiences. Today we are lucky if shoppers come to the store even once a week.

According to The Confidence Board Global Consumer Confidence Survey conducted in Q4 2019 (pre-COVID-19) 14% of consumers reported that they were worried about increasing food prices and 68% of consumers said they are cutting back on their food purchases.

What will the future hold in 2021?

Expect to see more plant based and plant forward foods. We will see a shift to more wholesome carbs from whole grains, ancient grains. Much more attention will be given to foods that contain Vitamin C and supplements to boost immunity. More blended foods – both made at home and bought ready made in sores building on the success of the Mushroom Council and James Beard Foundation’s blended burger success – the combination of mushrooms and ground beef – that is already being extended to other proteins and other vegetables. Think flexitarians versus vegans. It’s not about extremes – it will be the about balance between animal and plant protein.

Our shelves will be overrun with new innovations that are designed to meet the needs of the pandemic shopper. Higher anxiety led to new products like PepsiCo’s new drink called Driftwell that is meant to help consumers relax and unwind before bed. The enhanced water drink contains 200 milligrams of L-theanine and 10% of the daily value of magnesium. This from a brand that was built on caffeine and high fructose corn syrup.

Consumers aren’t just eating at home more but they’re also managing their health at home. Early research published in Nutrition & Dietetics in late June showed that telehealth in Australia keeps patients compliant with care regimens to improve health outcomes.

The results are impactful:

· When compared to a traditional group weight loss program, those engaged in a telehealth program lost similar amounts of weight over six months.

· A meta-analysis found telephone-delivered nutrition counseling is effective in improving eating patterns of individuals with chronic conditions. Half of telephone programs in published literature are with individuals with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease and osteoarthritis.

· A web-based study in seven European countries found that diet quality, as assessed by the Healthy Eating Index 2010, improved across the 3-month trial and was maintained for an additional 6 months – due to telemedicine.

In the US, Kroger Health launched a telenutrition service that’s free, as long as the pandemic lasts, to help customers navigate the new normal.

As part of its Food as Medicine platform, it offers:

· Unlimited free virtual consultations with a registered dietitian via video chat, using the code COVID

· Personalized support and plans for individuals and families

· Management of food-related health issues

Texas has the most uninsured adults and the third-most uninsured children in the U.S. according to Wallethub. So when grocer H-E-B launched telemedicine with the partner MDBox app in the summer of 2019, it was a welcome affordable solution. Walk-ins can have a video-chat doctor visit at the pharmacy counter within 30 minutes for less than $50.

Technology, food technology has come a long way. No, I am not talking about the foods that are being created through Silicon Valley tech – I’m talking about the information and education that we can offer shoppers through technology.

Packaging will contain more QR codes that can verify product and ingredient claims, DNA kits will continue to evolve well beyond where they are now – but the import of the shopper themselves will be paramount to their success. Viome, for example, a kit that focuses on gut health, produces two reports for a shopper one that focuses on what you should and should not eat, and the other focused on the traits in our bodies and what they mean. Each report is close to 100 pages – far to complex for the average shopper to understand or to follow. But take that kind of information and embed it within the shopping experience, easily and simply – and see what magic can happen. Viome has also just launched a new product - supplements based on your profile - personalized for your individual needs to help you ‘correct’ those gut related issues.

One thing for sure is that the pandemic has brought families together to eat together, to communicate and spend more time together.

The FMI Family Meals effort has long promoted the benefits to health and to society and the pandemic has given the effort more substance and reason to embrace. Here’s what we know:

1. Eating together as a family helps kids have better self-esteem, more success in school, and lower risk of depression and substance-use disorders.

2. Kids that learn to cook eat healthier as adults. If they learn by ages 18-23, they eat more vegetables, less fast food, and more family meals a decade later.

3. Home preparation of more plant-based proteins such as dry beans and lentils, tofu, and homemade veggie burgers are helping shoppers discover that good nutrition can be delicious.

4. People are eating more local foods in response to supply chain issues early in the pandemic.

5. Changing mindsets about wellness now include self-compassion. Eating is one of the basic ways we care for ourselves. And disruptions in food and activity routines have people thinking about how they redefine wellness.

The supermarket world is changing, and as we look around us – around the entire globe – we need to open our eyes and imagine what it possible – and understand that everything has changed and through smart food technologies we can improve the health and wellness of every shopper!

‘Junk food is the new tobacco’: experts call for restrictions to tackle obesity

Ministers should regulate processed food as heavily as tobacco to tackle the “massive national challenge” of the UK’s obesity crisis, health experts have warned.

They have urged severe restrictions on supermarket promotions of processed foods, and bans on fast food outlets near schools, and TV adverts for pizzas, burgers and similar foods before 9pm. One campaign group even urged the government to consider plain packaging for processed food.

The calls come as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil a “war on obesity”, after weight was identified as a major factor in deaths from Covid-19. In England, 64% of adults are overweight or obese and Johnson has said his time in intensive care after contracting the virus – when he weighed more than 17 stone – has changed his “libertarian” views on food and obesity.

The government is now preparing measures – likely to be announced before the end of the month – to tackle obesity in Britain before a possible second wave of coronavirus infections.

A range of health experts told the Observer that every possible method of tackling the crisis should be included in the package.

“Think what was done with tobacco,” said Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund. “Don’t let it brand, limit how much can be sold, tax it – use every possible route. You’re not going to find the magic bullet right away, but there’s got to be a genuine recognition that this is a massive national challenge.”

Caroline Cerny, of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of over 40 charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups, warned that it has now become difficult for people to resist the relentless bombardment of adverts for sugary, calorific foods on TV and online.

“The plan must address the environmental drivers of obesity, with a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts on TV and online, and controls on how and where unhealthy food can be marketed. We have to take junk food out of the spotlight.”

Other proposals put forward by health experts include closing down fast food outlets near schools, the creation of more cycle lanes, banning sweets at checkouts, outlawing discount deals on alcohol making restaurants publish the calorific content of items in their menus and extending sugar taxes to milky drinks.

Campaigners also point to the success of past efforts such as the 2018 levy on soft drinks, which forced manufacturers to either pay a levy or reduce sugar levels, and resulted in a 28.8% fall in the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks.

“The sugar tax was an innovation – it worked well,” Murray said. “You’ve just got to do a lot more of it, and that could include controlling, through taxation, the calorific content of food and the quality of the food itself. So a tax could be levied on saturated fat or calories.”