Are customers considering how healthy their food is?

Almost two-fifths of UK diners only rarely consider how healthy food they buy from restaurants or take-aways is, new figures show.

According to Mintel research, 37 per cent rarely consider this issue, with 44 per cent of people aged 65 or over in the same position.

The research – part of the 'Eating Out: The Decision Making Process – UK – July 2014' report – also shows that 33 per cent of British people had a takeaway at least once weekly during the previous three months at the time the data was collected, while almost the same proportion were eating out just as often.

Mintel says the market for eating out is forecast to grow to £33.5 billion this year, three per cent up on the 2013 figure.

The research also shows that 60 per cent of diners had food in or bought a take away from a pub during the February to April period.

Pub catering performed well compared to other sectors for eating out last year. Sales rose six per cent against 2012, to reach £7 billion.

The fried chicken sector saw the biggest growth within fast food between 2012 and 2013. It grew 4.6 per cent, to reach £1.35 billion.

That's still lower than the £2.9 billion 2013 market value placed on the burger sector by the research.

The stats show that 11 per cent of diners dine in a restaurant twice weekly or more (the figure for takeaway or delivered food is nine per cent).

This rises to a fifth of Londoners eating out at least twice weekly and 17 per cent ordering food to have outside of the food provider's location this often.

According to the stats, 55 per cent of British people had made an effort to shed weight during the last year. Only eight per cent of diners overall are on the look out for healthy options if they head out to eat on a special occasion, though. And 43 per cent say they try to find an indulgent option.

A mere 15 per cent of diners said they have a preference for venues that include information about how many calories are in items on their menu. But just eight per cent would avoid places that provide this info.

In London, 19 per cent of diners prefer items using superfoods over ones which are low in fat or calories. A fifth said they would buy more dishes which were high in protein, were these included on a menu.

“Although Government initiatives such as the Responsibility Deal are pushing eating out operators to think more about their healthy eating proposition, there is little widespread demand from consumers themselves," commented senior foodservice analyst at Mintel, Helena Childe.

She explain that, even though there isn't much widespread "demand for health", certain operators can make use of the health issue "to more proactively chase their share of the leisure pound, through targeted promotions for example".

She said that there are chances in lunch and breakfast options, as well as within the ethnic sector especially, for businesses to make use of "healthy eating facets" as a sales booster.

Another finding was that 32 per cent of diners had made use of discount vouchers from an eatery during the previous three month period. That was actually a higher 39 per cent among people earning in excess of £50k.

Just under a third of diners showed an interest in ordering items from the table without having to talk to waiting staff – using smartphones to do this, for example.

Half had an interest in – or had already – ordered their food before they got to the place they were eating.

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