Making room for healthier menu items seems to be on the priority list of some major franchise chains, which means consumer demand for healthier food is also high. Much of what’s changing on menus is welcome in its attention to more detail oriented nutrition concerns.
No longer is gluten-free or vegetarian or vegan or customizable enough. More consumers are looking closely at the detailed list of ingredients for each food item to personally assess healthfulness or lack thereof, going beyond nutritional value. This assessment includes looking for artificial ingredients rather than natural, as well as genetically modified foods and preservatives.
Chipotle has chosen to remove GM food items from its menu, albeit meats from animals that were fed GM food items and beverage items that likely contain ingredients derived from GM produce. The company considers meat products derived from GMO fed animals a challenge to avoid, though alternatives are sought out such as grass-fed cow meat made available to customers.
Taco Bell is another restaurant chain that is taking customer considerations to heart. Artificial ingredients such as coloring and flavoring, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats are to be removed by up to 95% from the menu by the end of 2015. Artificial preservatives and additives are to be removed where possible by the end of 2017. Taco Bell’s CEO has assured customers that these changes will not result in steeper prices. Pizza Hut, another Yum Brand chain alongside Taco Bell, likewise has stated plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from nationally available pizzas by the end of July.
Panera Bread, a multi-unit franchise developer, is also stepping up the quality of ingredients on its menus. A list compiled for customers includes a range of 150+ ingredients that have been or will be removed from the Panera Bread menu by the end of 2016. The list includes artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors, and flavors color-coded to indicate whether they will be or have been removed.
Similar to Chipotle, these changes to the ingredients of menu offerings of each brand will not include beverages that may contain artificial ingredients, such as various soda brands, nor will they alter the ingredients of cobranded items that involve partnerships with other brands. As a response to consumer demand, bottled beverages for the health conscious are being integrated with existing menu items, which at Panera Bread include organic juices and raw coconut water.