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Americans unwilling to spend more on healthful eating

New study shows most Americans don’t want to pay more for healthier menu options

Americans might be hearing a lot about eating healthier these days, but most say they would not be willing to pay extra for it when dining out, according to a study from The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based marketing research firm found that about 70 percent of consumers — most notably those over 50 who tend to show more interest in healthful foods than younger Americans — said they don’t expect to pay a premium for healthier items when they dine out.

The study, titled “Consumers Define Healthy Eating When they Go Out to Eat,” also said for the year ended in February, 9 percent of all restaurant visits were made based on customers’ craving for healthful or light fare. That marks a decline from 10 percent in 2007.

“One of the key takeaways is that pricing of the healthy options needs to be consistent with pricing of other choices on the menu,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the report. “The market for health today is growing and there is a good opportunity for operators who find a way to offer healthier options at lower price points.”

According to NPD, 70 percent of consumers over 50 years old said no when asked if they would be willing to pay more for healthier items at restaurants, while 25 percent said they would be willing to pay somewhat more. Only 5 percent of respondents in that age group were willing to pay a lot more.

About 55 percent of consumers aged 25 to 49 years old said they expected to pay the same price for healthier items as they would for standard menu fare, while 9 percent said they would be inclined to pay a lot more for healthful options.

Consumers aged 18 to 24 years old showed the greatest inclination to pay a premium for healthy menu items, with 15 percent saying they would be willing to pay a lot more. About 44 percent of consumers in that age group said they would not pay more.

According to the study, more customers of full-service restaurants said they expected to pay the same price for healthful items as they did for standard menu options, while fewer quick-service patrons said they expected to pay the same.

RELATED: Read more about what factors drive health-conscious guests to pay more in "The price of health," from the May 30 issue of Nation's Restaurant News (subscribers only).

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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