The calendar says summer is officially underway and farmers markets across the country are once again lively and bustling places—now more than ever, apparently. According to the USDA, farmers markets have grown 17 percent in the last two years.
One major reason why: people like the idea of eating local, and perhaps more importantly, knowing where, exactly, the food comes from that they’re going to be putting on the family table. This concept of knowing where one’s food comes from is becoming known as “transparency,” and more consumers today are demanding it from their food sources—in both grocery stores and restaurants.
The recent food contamination outbreak in Europe has undoubtedly helped to further ratchet up people’s desire to know as much as possible about what they’re putting inside their bodies.
As reported by Mindy Armstrong, writing for QSRWeb.com, the transparency food trend has resulted in a greater emphasis on things like nutritional labeling, calls for more authentic flavors, and “clean” ingredients. As Armstrong notes, there’s an overall lack of trust in companies these days, beyond the food realm. According to an Inc. Magazine study, people’s trust in companies has declined by more than 58 percent during the recent recession.
The new federal guidelines requiring the posting of calories on menus of restaurant chains with 20 or more locations is certainly one driver of the transparency movement. But some restaurants are going beyond those requirements. Some examples cited by Armstrong include—
- Domino’s Pizza acknowledged that they had been serving a substandard product, then made major upgrades and encouraged customers to call a publicized phone number with comments on the new products. Same store sales are up 12 percent.
- Mad Greens, a Colorado-based fast casual chain, added nutritional info to its menu even though the 11-unit chain isn’t required to do so.
- Five Guys Burgers and Fries displays the origin of the potatoes used for their daily fresh-cut fries.
- Elevation Burger (motto: “Ingredients Matter”) grounds grass-fed beef on premise for its burgers, serves olive oil-fried french fries, and promotes environmentally-friendly operational practices.
We can’t really think of a downside to this transparency trend, unless government regulations start to go too far. People have a right to know what goes into the food they feed themselves or their family. More knowledge is always a good thing—although we’re still not sure we want to watch sausage being made.
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