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BLOGS & OPINION | Staff Reporter, Australia
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Sarah Patterson

Why there's no excuse for QSRs to ignore nutrition

BY SARAH PATTERSON

For over a decade now nutrition has been a growing consideration for QSR’s. But, for an industry where taste and value have traditionally dominated what does nutrition really mean?

What is nutrition in QSR?
Currently, nutrition initiatives in QSR tend to focus on three areas:
1. Providing nutrition information to inform customer decisions
2. Offering choice by providing or customising menu items to meet different nutrition requirements (e.g. removing cheese from a sandwich to reduce fat)
3. Using whole foods to get the inherent nutrition benefits of core foods like lean meat, vegetables, fruit, grains and dairy

Why consider nutrition?
With 63% of Australian adult’s overweight or obese and a growing number of meals eaten outside of the home the nutrition content of QSR menus is an increasing focus of customers, advocacy groups and legislators.

As a result of the 2009 National Preventative Health Taskforce and the Federal Government’s independent review of food labelling law and policy we’ve seen a number of changes impacting how food is produced, sold and promoted.

On the legislation front there have been two major changes:
1. Kilojoule labelling regulations were introduced in NSW, ACT and SA requiring business with 50 stores nationally (or 7 – 20 state-wide, dependent on state) to display the kilojoule content of standard menu items on menu boards.
2. Nutrition, Health and related claims standard became law in January. The standard regulates claims about the nutritional content of food or the relationship between food and health as well as the use of endorsements. While allowing a broader range of health claims, the new standard increases the prerequisites for making claims.

Outside of the legislative arena the Food and Health Dialogue, a government-industry-public health initiative aimed at developing a voluntary reformulation program, has formed an industry round-table group for QSR. While reducing sodium is the current focus if the Food and Health Dialogue, saturated fat, added sugar and portion size as well as increasing fibre, wholegrain, fruit and vegetable content are also on the agenda.

Advocacy groups have called for further action on these initiatives supporting recommendations to include additional nutrients or even a traffic light style system on menu boards as well as calling for mandatory reformulation targets if the voluntary targets are not successful.

On the consumer front, a recent Australian survey showed 17% of people are paying more attention to the nutrition of food selected in restaurants supporting other previous studies showing 60% of consumers concerned about the healthiness of fast food. In line with this; findings from the US saw increased performance in same store sales growth and customer traffic in restaurants that increased their lower-calorie servings.

Five steps to address nutrition
In this environment it is likely the focus on nutrition will only grow. The five steps below are designed to ensure brands are addressing nutrition and able to respond.

1. Provide accessible nutrition information
2. Offer true choice by catering to different nutrition requirements
3. Understand your nutrition footprint.
Where do you sit compared with key brand and market nutrition indicators?
4. Determine your desired nutrition position
What do you want your brand to say about nutrition?
5. Align menu, product development, marketing and communications with your nutrition positioning
 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by QSR Media. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Sarah Patterson

Sarah Patterson

Sarah Patterson is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Managing Director of the Nutrition Providers, a nutrition consultancy providing tailored nutrition solutions to food and nutrition businesses.

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