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MENU INNOVATIONS | Staff Reporter, Australia
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Will healthy fast food be the next big thing?

Eat good, feel good.

Australians are becoming increasingly health-conscious, a trend quick service restaurants (QSR's) are starting to pick up and profit on.

2014 is the year of fresh, fast and healthy. Diners are looking for fresh, healthy dishes without the long wait.

"We believe this year, more than ever consumers will want to know where their food comes from," said Luke Baylis, Co-Founder and CEO of SumoSalad. "Australians are increasingly becoming concerned with where their produce is being sourced, whether it is fresh, and how livestock are being farmed."

Jess Thomas, Retail Marketing Manager of Salsa's Fresh Mex Grill, couldn't agree more, predicting: "we will see a real increase in the fast and fresh casual restaurant formats in Australia, as customers would rather wait for longer to receive their meal, without comprising their health and really have a memorable customer experience.

According to the Australian Trade Commission's website (http://www.austrade.gov.au/Buy/Australian-Industry-Capability/Food-and-B...), the market for intrinsically healthy foods has experienced remarkable growth and consumer interest in recent years, adding Australians are becoming interested in functional foods and are more conscious about health.

Proof of this growth is the experience of Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar, said Renee North, Crust's Marketing Manager, "Crust has experienced the growth it has because of the growing demand for good, real food." The pizza chain currently offers fresher and healthier eating alternatives to set itself apart regular pizza brands.

"We love that consumers are starting to really think about fresh and seasonal produce. We have always been passionate about this, so having consumers now look out for places serving seasonal ingredients is fantastic," commented Baylis.

More than health, SumoSalad has also noticed that consumers are conscious about the meat on their plates. In growing response to consumer concern over animal welfare, SumoSalad have started serving free-range chicken across its entire menu in over 90 stores in the country this year.

"We believe customers want to feel good about what they are eating," emphasised Thomas.

SUPERFOODS and GLUTEN-FREE

Riding with the healthy trend, superfoods are starting to make its way into menus.

Baylis noted that superfoods have become a huge trend in Australia and has allowed the franchise to incorporate ingredients not normally seen in regular menus of QSR's, like chia seeds, kale and quinoa, he pointed out.

The last year, the franchise has come up with a range of chia seed salads with celebrity chef Pete Evans, and has incorporated kale and quinoa with its existing menu.

Similarly, Salsa's launched its Quinoa Chicken Salad just last week. "Quinoa is an exciting new ingredient for us and is definitely on trend and offers a lot of nutritional benefits for our customers," said Thomas, hinting of more trendy ingredients and products to be introduced this year.

Aside from superfoods, gluten-free options are also popping up on menus. According to Thomas, the gluten-free trend is an increasingly growing area of Salsa's business, noting, "this food trend is proving to be one that will continue to grow and demonstrates customers are becoming more demanding in regards to their health."

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