America is experiencing a push for better nutrition. This is thanks in part to First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to fight childhood obesity and to the federal government’s new menu labeling laws. The nation’s consumers are also more curious about food sourcing lately. This is due in part to numerous food scares along with a demand for locally grown products on the table.
As a result of the healthy food and food sourcing trends, several restaurants across a few segments, including quick serve and fast casual, are adding registered dietitians to their staffs. This puts these brands in the lime light for customers who not only want healthier options, but also want to know where their food comes from.
McDonald’s took this proactive step in 2008 when it hired Dr. Cynthia M. Goody, a registered dietitian. According to QSR Magazine, the chain added Goody to its staff to position itself ahead of others with regard to offering nutrition information and better nutritional value on its menus. Since then, McDonald’s has developed more nutritious menu offerings, including fruit with oatmeal served through all dayparts.
Restaurant Dietitian claims there are several reasons to consult registered dietitians, including lowering overhead and complying with legal mandates. In addition to these benefits, a dietitian can also help convey the nutritional value of menu items to consumers.
They can provide the story of a brand with credibility, too. Although this work is usually left to marketing managers, they are not as trusted by the public as someone who is educated in nutrition. An on-staff registered dietitian can attest to the source of food and its healthful benefits. The USDA’s report that eggs are now thought to have lower amount of cholesterol and higher amounts of vitamin D would be much more widely accepted coming from a registered dietitian than from a marketing manager.
Food safety is a big concern for consumers, especially in light of several recent scares, including eggs. A registered dietitian could easily sell consumers on the claim that menu ingredients are safe and come from healthy sources. On the other hand, someone whose sole purpose is to market a foodservice brand seems less trustworthy about these subjects.
This may be the latest trend emerging out of the nutritional labeling laws and food sourcing demands of consumers, but it does not mean that restaurants, manufacturers or others across industry segments should immediately hire a registered dietitian to keep up with the changing market. The decision to add a dietitian to the staff should be carefully considered with respect to the brand’s position, image and strategy. If having a dietitian on staff that does not fit in with the brand, it would not be a good decision to hire one.
This may be the latest trend emerging from nutritional labeling laws and food sourcing awareness and, as always, FoodChannelPRO will keep an eye on these trends as they continue to grow and merge.