Many restaurants are beginning to understand why organic matters. An increasing number of restaurants are offering wider selections of organic and local produce menu items due to the large consumer demand. Most consumers are not aware that, the term “local” can mean the produce was grown as many as 400 miles away; however the term “organic” must adhere to strict government standards. 

Why the Interest in Locally Sourced Foods?

A recent survey conducted by Technomic, suggests that a large percentage of consumers prefer to purchase locally sourced beverages and foods. As many as 26% are willing to pay more in order to get them. Additionally, more than 50% of customers reported eating locally sourced food items at least once a week.

More than 50% of customers reported eating locally sourced food items at least once a week.

Over 50% of individuals surveyed claimed they prefer local foods simply because they consider them to taste better. The majority said they wanted to eat less processed and natural foods. Other consumers stated that they consume these foods out of concern for the environment, and wanted to contribute by supporting local businesses and farmers.

However, consumers are not the only ones attracted to locally sourced, organic foods. The National Restaurant Association polled 1,600 chefs about the latest food trends for 2016. The majority of the chefs included the word, “local” in three of the top 10 responses. These responses included:

  • Meats and seafood that are locally sourced
  • Produce that is locally grown
  • Hyper-local sourcing

Brands Responding to Consumer Demands

Due to the consumer demand for high quality organic and locally sourced ingredients continues to rise, food manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon to widely respond to the trend.

One report suggests that even those consumers who order carry-out items are questing locally sourced, organic foods. Technomic MenuMonitor data shows five-year increases in local organic food requests by:

  • 150% for desserts
  • 137% for entrees
  • 82% for appetizers

This has led to…

  • Wendy’s adding organic beverages
  • Elevation Burger adding pure organic beef burgers
  • Noodle & Co. offering organic tofu and naturally raised pork products
  • Papa John’s using freshly picked, within six hours, tomatoes in their sauce

But that’s not all…

In 2015, Panera introduced the “transparent” menu, beginning a movement toward clean eating. Most recently the food chain produced a clean soup menu to support the initiative toward selling locally sourced and organic foods, and has been rewarded for its efforts.

According to Technomic’s most recent survey, the company stands as a leading fast food chain. Quality Systems Regulations (QSR) have witnessed increases in sales and brand equity by including local and organic foods on their menus.

Tender Greens, a California based company, has built a substantial consumer following by providing fresh, local produce and has begun experimenting with aeroponic towers of vegetables that appear within the restaurants themselves. As testament to its success, Tender Greens is expected to expand to New York City.

The Future of Organic and Local Food

Restaurateurs who have been authentic and trustworthy about what ingredients are used in their products and where they come from, are those who have most highly succeed. Regardless of how consumers perceive or define the food items they demand, the industry is clearly moving toward a well-defined, clean-eating trend that extends toward a healthier way of life.

The industry is clearly moving toward a well-defined, clean-eating trend that extends toward a healthier way of life.

More and more consumers are demanding information about how foods are being prepared. They want to know about food portions and how it is prepared. Consumers are interested in exactly what the ingredients are, where they originated, and what a given restaurant’s effect is on the environment.

The industry can expect to see a steady increase in organic and locally sourced menu offerings among QSRs. This is a move that can serve, not only to attract new consumers, but also to meet the demands of former and existing consumers. The growing emphasis being placed on sustainability, transparency and food safety will only strengthen this trend.

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