About 46 per cent of respondents to Allegra’s survey said they mainly eat healthily when out but sometimes treat themselves, which is a drop from the 51 per cent who gave this answer last year. Meanwhile 33 per cent mainly eat what they want, but sometimes make healthy choices (up from 31 per cent).
On the more extreme ends of the scale, 7 per cent avoid unhealthy food when eating out (down from 11 per cent) and 14 per cent never worry about eating healthy (almost double from last year’s 8 per cent).
In terms of reasons, 48 per cent of consumers said that eating out was ‘a treat’, compared to 40 per cent in 2013, but the report also showed a drop in healthy eating in people’s overall diet, both in and out of home.
This demand trend change contrasts with what’s been happening on the supply side, with more and more outlets expanding their healthy options or displaying calorie information on menus.
In fact, despite fewer people making healthy choices, the survey revealed a consensus amongst consumers on the fact that restaurants’ healthy offering is growing and becoming more affordable.
Yet only 36 per cent said they preferred to visit establishment with healthier eating option, compared to 56 per cent last year, and fewer people want to restaurants to display calorie counts on menus.
“Despite the trend towards wow foods, players like itsu, Wasabi or Leon are offering 'worthy' food with great appeal and growth,” said Allegra director of insight Steve Gotham.
While healthy eating is showing some decline 73 per cent of consumers are interested in sustainability – 60 per cent in the 18-24 age group; 84 per cent for 35-39-year-olds.
Interestingly, a growing number of diners would be happy to pay more for a meal if they knew a restaurant had implemented sustainable practices: 46 per cent in 2014, compared to 37 per cent in 2013.
Animal welfare overtook ethical sourcing and food disposal as consumers’ main sustainability concern this year at 58 per cent (up from 34 per cent last year), and half of respondents said it is important that the restaurant they eat at actively engages in reducing food waste.
Additionally, over half of them (51 per cent) also said that sourcing sustainable fish was important.