According to a Recent Study/Survey … End of July 2016 Edition, Part Two

As part of our mission to be the go-to resource for on-the-go restaurant industry professionals, Modern Restaurant Management magazine (MRM) offers highlights of recent research. This is the second part of  the end of July edition featuring news on  food ideology, sweet tea, organics and food porn history. It also looks into whether people would rather give up sex or their Smartphone.

Ideological Debate on Food Issues

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health examines how consumers differ in their attitudes on food issues. The results show that conservatives and liberals differ in their attitudes toward sustainability, trust in government for food-related information, and their top food safety issues.


Consumers approach sustainability from different angles. Liberals more readily cite the importance of environmental aspects of sustainability, while conservatives are drawn to sustainability for economic reasons.

For example, conservatives believe that conserving farmland over multiple generations (41 percent) and ensuring affordability of the food supply (47 percent) are the most important aspects of sustainability, while liberals cite reducing carbon footprint (22 percent) and conserving natural habitats (51 percent).

Both conservatives and liberals agree overwhelmingly that it is important for food products to be produced sustainably. However, liberals (56 percent) are much more likely than conservatives (35 percent) to say that they would pay more for sustainably produced products.

Media Influence

Media might play a role in these ideological differences. Liberals and conservatives differ in their exposure to books, articles, and documentaries that examine the food system.

Over half of liberals (51 percent) have read an article examining the food system in the past year, while about one-third (31 percent) of conservatives reported doing the same.

Similarly, a much larger proportion of liberals (27 percent) report seeing a movie or documentary that examined the food system in the past year, compared to conservatives. (13 percent).

Trust in Government

Conservatives and liberals have different levels of trust in the government on food issues.

Liberals are more likely than conservatives to cite the government as a top source of trust for information on the safety of food and ingredients (58 percent vs. 46 percent).

Only about one in four (27 percent) conservatives highlighted the government as a top source of trust for information about the types of food you should eat, while nearly half of liberals (48 percent) highlight the government as a top trusted source for this information.

Food Safety

Liberals and conservatives also differ in what they view as the top food safety issues. “Foodborne illness from bacteria” ranked first among both liberals and conservatives (55 percent and 58 percent respectively). However, liberals are far more likely to cite “pesticides” as a top food safety issue (38 percent vs. 24 percent), while conservatives are twice as likely to cite “carcinogens or cancer-causing chemicals in food” (40 percent vs. 20 percent).

Those who identify as somewhat liberal (12 percent) are twice as likely as those who are somewhat conservative (six percent) to cite “food additives and ingredients” as a top food safety issue.

Food Insecurity Growing

Despite the fact more Americans live below the poverty line in the suburbs than in the city, a survey released by Kellogg Company reveals most Americans are unaware of the growing need for assistance for food insecure people in suburbia. In the nationwide survey, only 35 percent of respondents said families in the suburbs would be more likely to experience hunger, yet according to government data, hunger, especially for households with children, has been growing faster in suburbs than cities since 2007.

“Lack of awareness of hunger in the suburbs is a huge problem because it means that resources often aren’t sufficient to address the growing problem,” said Julie Bosley, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Kellogg Company. “This challenge, for example, puts stresses on suburban schools trying to expand school breakfast programs for kids who need it and in other instances, the lack of resources can make it harder for those in need to access social programs, like food pantries that may not be as available in the suburbs.”

Suburban communities now account for nearly half of new students eligible for free or reduced school meals, according to USDA and the Department of Education.

The Kellogg survey found perceptions of food insecurity in America do not reflect the new reality facing millions of newly poor families in the suburbs:

  • In 2012, there were 16.5 million Americans living below the poverty line in the suburbs compared with 13.5 million in cities, according to a 2014 report from Brooking Institution.
  • The number of suburban poor is growing at a more rapid rate than those in urban areas.
  • The number of suburban poor living in neighborhoods with high unemployment and poverty grew by 139 percent since 2000, compared with a 50 percent jump in urban areas/cities.
  • The survey found a disparity in awareness of food insecurity in the suburbs among different demographic groups:
  • Those employed full-time (41 percent) were more aware versus the unemployed (35 percent) and retirees (20 percent).
  • Only six percent of people with no children said assistance was most needed in the suburbs, versus 16 percent of respondents with children.
  • The older the respondent, the less likely they were aware of the need for assistance in the suburbs. For those ages 55-plus, only 5 percent believed need for assistance is greatest in the suburbs (67 percent urban; 28 percent rural).
  • The larger the size of the household, the more likely they were to be aware of hunger in the suburbs:
  • For households of only one, 24 percent said a family in the suburbs is more likely to experience food insecurity.
  • For households of five, 43 percent said a family in the suburbs is more likely to experience food insecurity.
  • Since 2013, Kellogg’s Company has been feeding children and families in need by expanding breakfast programs and donating cereals and snacks to food banks through its Breakfasts for Better Days® global signature cause. In the U.S., Kellogg has joined with nonprofit partners to help expand access to the national school breakfast program for needy children, many in suburban school districts, so more children can start their day with a healthy breakfast. In February, Kellogg announced it had exceeded its 2016 year-end milestone to donate one billion servings of cereal and snacks to those in need.
Seattle Restaurant Workers Satisfied

The majority of the Seattle restaurant workforce is highly satisfied at work and prefer tweaks to existing policies over any major changes that aren’t needed, including scheduling changes, according to a June survey.

The survey gauged the opinions of more than 700 Seattle restaurant employees. It was administered by EnviroIssues, a Seattle community outreach organization, and was led by the Seattle Restaurant Alliance.

The survey was conducted to ask broad questions about the restaurant industry in Seattle to learn how members can make the lives of their employees better. Questions pertained to hours, salary, scheduling, likes and dislikes.Seattle Restaurant Branding

The city of Seattle is considering legislating how restaurants can schedule employees with a new law expected to be approved this September. It hired Vigdor Measurement and Evaluation to collect survey data this spring to inform the city’s policy.

“The best way to understand what our employees want is to ask them directly,” said Jasmine Donovan, VP at Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants and board member of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. “We asked broad questions with the goal of using the survey results to help Seattle Restaurant Alliance members understand the best investments they can make to enhance the lives of their employees.”

Survey findings show 86 percent of Seattle restaurant workers are proud to work in the industry. Seventy-six percent work the number of hours they want and 89 percent agree they can talk to their manager and give input about their work environment, number of hours and scheduling needs.

Three out of four workers want employers, not government, to design and implement changes that impact them. And, above everything else, workers within certain demographics said access to benefits and higher wages were a higher priority – not scheduling.

Food Porn History

Our obsession with looking at tasty, exotic food is nothing new. A new Cornell Food and Brand Lab analysis shows that some of the most commonly painted foods from 1500 to 2000 AD, such as shellfish and exotic fruit, were not representative of a typical diet; rather, artists painted glorified, extravagant meals based on desire rather than reality – a practice similar to today’s constantly trending #FoodPorn.

For the study, published in Sage Open, researchers selected 750 European and American food paintings from the 500-year period and focused on 140 paintings of family meals. They found that 76 percent of all the meals depicted in the paintings included fruits, but only 19 percent contained vegetables. Over 54 percent showed bread and pastries and 39 percent contained meat. Salt was the most commonly depicted seasoning and cheese the most common dairy product.

It turns out, admiring a painting of a dramatically lit oyster buffet isn’t too dissimilar from double-tapping that carefully filtered surf and turf pic on Instagram. The most commonly painted foods of the last 500 years were not the most readily available.  The most commonly painted vegetable was an artichoke, the most common fruit was a lemon, and the most common meat was shellfish, usually lobster. Overall, shellfish were depicted in 22 percent of paintings despite being rather uncommon.  According to the authors, these paintings sometimes featured food that was either aspirational—rare or hard to afford—or foods painters thought would make the paintings most aesthetically pleasing.

Desire for Low-Calorie Alcohol Options

With more and more American drinkers seemingly becoming focused on their wellness and active lifestyles, the face of happy hour may also be changing for good as more varieties of alcohol become available. A recent survey commissioned by Truly Spiked & Sparkling and conducted online by Harris Poll revealed that almost half (47 percent) of Americans age 21+ who drink alcohol say there are not enough low calorie alcohol beverage options on the market. In fact, nearly five in 10 (45 percent) drinkers agreed that following a wellness routine makes it hard to be social because events often revolve around unhealthy food and drink.

A recent article in Advertising Age points to this summer’s biggest alcohol trend as spiked sparkling water, supporting the idea that drinkers’ attitude towards alcohol choices and their desire for lower calorie options may have shifted.

The poll also revealed that nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) alcohol drinkers are open to trying new types of alcohol, further validating the trend cited in the article that drinkers would like to see more variety in their alcoholic beverage choices.

Americans Love Sweet Tea

McAlister’s Deli® conducted a survey of 1000+ consumers, ages 18-64, across the United States to find out how much they love sweet tea – and the survey findings revealed that Americans’ love of sweet tea runs deep. In fact, 57 percent of respondents said they would rather give up chocolate than a perfect glass of sweet tea.

ice-tea_fkn-bvdOAdditional findings from the national survey revealed that Americans are not only serious about their sweet tea, but they have very specific ways they like to enjoy the perfect glass:

  • What Would You Give Up? More than half (69 percent) of respondents say a perfect glass of sweet tea is better than a good afternoon nap and 43 percent of respondents are willing to trade a cup of coffee for a glass of sweet tea.
  • Going the Distance – Almost half (48 percent) of respondents would drive at least three miles out of their way for a perfect glass of sweet tea.
  • The Great Lemon Debate – The majority of respondents (57 percent) prefer their sweet tea with lemon
  • Sweet Tea Has No Season – An overwhelming majority (93 percent) of respondents say sweet tea can be enjoyed year round, not just summer time.
  • The United States of Sweet Tea – The Southeast is home to the most sweet tea lovers with 34 percent reporting enjoying a glass every day. The Southwest is a close runner up with 33 percent reporting daily sweet tea drinking, followed by the Northeast with 28 percent of daily sweet tea drinkers. Midwestern and Westerners tied for last place with 22 percent of local respondents reporting a daily sweet tea habit.
End of Smoothie Trend?

In-home smoothie preparation is flat as more people are having them made for them – the servings of smoothies ordered at foodservice outlets are up 11 percent, according to NPD’s ongoing food consumption research. Blending systems were the “it” appliance in recent years as consumers blended, mixed, and chopped a variety of concoctions, like smoothies and juices, but these gadget stars have begun to lose their luster. Dollar sales of blender/mixer/chopper systems changed their trajectory in the year ending May 2016 with ten percent declines in dollar sales, driven in part by six percent fewer of these items being purchased at retail, according to The NPD Group. 

Blender/mixer/chopper systems, blenders, food processors, and juice extractors have all been promoting smoothie preparation, and the short term win that resulted may accidently be creating a bigger loss as consumer engagement with smoothies evolves, the survey says. While market saturation and small declines in retail distribution are possible contributors to the drop in sales, the potential of being a fading fad is a concern worth exam. The good news is that healthy living is still important in America, and having smoothies will likely continue to be an important part of a healthy diet. But, smoothies are not the only healthy solution.

Organics on the Rise

According to the Organic Trade Association, Americans are gobbling up more organic fruits and vegetables than ever before, from organic blueberries and organic apples to organic packaged greens and cut-up organic vegetables ready for their children’s lunch box or their family’s dinner plate.

Over half of all households in the United States now purchase organic produce. The sale of organic bananas alone – now a $165 million market – soared by more than 30 percent last year. Organic “value-added” vegetables (think chopped kale, peeled carrots and ready-to-cook squash) grew by a whopping 54 percent in 2015 to almost $150 million.

According to the OTA 2016 Organic Industry Survey compiled by Nielsen, fresh organic produce sales in the U.S. reached $13 billion in 2015. (Total sales of organic fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen and canned, amounted to $14.4 billion.) The $13-billion market includes $5.7 billion worth of organic produce sold in the mass market (supermarkets, big-box stores, warehouse clubs), $4.7 billion sold by specialty and natural retailers, and $2.7 billion in direct sales (farmers’ markets, CSAs, online).

Since 2011, the sales of produce in this country have increased over 25 percent. Convenience, a greater awareness of the health benefits of produce, and an increased interest in local food sources largely contributed to the increase. And driven by the desire to improve upon already healthy food choices, organic fruit sales have soared 123 percent during that time, while organic vegetable sales have jumped by 92 percent.

What’s big in the organic produce sector? A few standouts in the produce section:

Organic bananas: Sales up a solid 33 percent from a year ago.

Organic blackberries: Sales up a sharp 61 percent from a year ago.

Organic salad greens and organic baby carrots: Sales of each up 11 percent versus a year ago.

Organic Pink Lady Apples: Sales almost double (up 96 percent) that of a year ago.

The U.S. organic industry saw its largest dollar gain ever in 2015, adding $4.2 billion in sales. Total organic food sales in the U.S. were $39.7 billion, up 11 percent from the previous year. Organic produce sales accounted for 36 percent of the organic market. Almost 13 percent of all the produce sold in the United States now is organic.

The Nielsen findings showed that today’s organic produce shopper tends to be more kid-focused than the average produce shopper, and that the huge majority of these enthusiastic organic produce buyers – 77 percent – are going to their favorite grocery store or supermarket chain to buy their organic fruits and vegetables.

Smartphone Attachment

There are stark generational differences as well as correlations between smartphone use and psychological health, according to Mobile app developer Delvv® Digital Habits Survey 2016. The study exploring the digital norms, expectations, and habits that influence smartphone use found that more than 29 percent of Americans would rather give up sex for three months than give up their smartphone for one week. The survey asked 355 Americans ages 18 and above a total of 28 questions including three in which respondents self-reported their average levels of anxiety, happiness, and connection to friends and family on a one-to-five scale. 

More than 29 percent of Americans would rather give up sex for three months than give up their smartphone for one week.

“Compared to older generations, Millennials feel much more pressure to respond immediately to text messages and instant messages,” said Felice Gabriel Miller, founder and President of Delvv. “In the space between true smartphone addicts and regular users, there are probably a lot of people who use their smartphone excessively just to avoid the social consequences of disconnecting. This helps explain why people ‘phub’ (i.e. phone snub) in social settings where they know they shouldn’t.”

The Delvv Digital Habits Survey 2016 uncovered the following insights:

Text Message Response Times

32 percent of Millennials (18-29 years olds) expect replies to text messages within 15 minutes, while only 25 percent of Gen Xers (30-59) and 13 percent of Baby Boomers (60+) expect the same.

There’s a gap between expectations and personal actions: 79 percent of Millennials say they respond to text messages within 15 minutes, and 56 percent of Gen Xers and 46 percent of Baby Boomers claim likewise.

Instant Message Response Times

Roughly half of Millennials (49 percent) respond to IMs within 15 minutes, while 30 percent of Baby Boomers respond to IMs whenever they feel like it and 29 percent respond within 24 hours. This is consistent with their expectations: 46 percent of Millennials do expect a response within an hour or less, and 43 percent of Baby Boomers don’t care when people respond to IMs.

43 percent of respondents who report high anxiety levels expect responses to instant messages within one hour or faster versus 29 percent of those with low anxiety. 58 percent of respondents with high anxiety claim to respond within one hour or faster versus 43 percent of those with low anxiety.

Responding to Calls with Texts

A majority of respondents (69 percent) believe that if people receive a phone call and they’re busy, they should not answer and call back when it’s convenient.

However, young people are most likely to text back to ask why the person called. 4 percent of Baby Boomers, 10 percent of gen Xers, and 23 percent of Millennials report doing this.

“Phubbing” (phone snubbing)

Most respondents (68 percent) feel that if they text someone who is at dinner with company, that person should not look at the message until after the meal.

Respondents who reported lower happiness levels are more likely to expect immediate responses. 76 percent of the happy crowd is okay with a recipient waiting to look until after their meal versus only 60 percent of the unhappy crowd. In the unhappy cohort, 23 percent expect people to look at the message but not text back, 7 percent want an immediate reply, 7 percent want the recipient to go to the bathroom to text back, and 2 percent expect a call back.

Respondents with higher anxiety levels are also more likely to expect immediate responses. 74 percent of respondents with low anxiety think it’s okay for a recipient to delay looking until after the meal, whereas only 55 percent of respondents with high anxiety have the same expectation.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans would rather give up all sexual interactions for three months than switch from a smartphone to “dumb phone” (i.e. a phone that can call and text only; no apps, email, or internet) for three months. However, people who reported high anxiety levels and weak connections to friends and family were more likely to give up sex before their smartphones (36 percent and 38 percent respectively). Respondents with low anxiety and strong connections were less likely to give up sex (23 percent and 25 percent respectively).

Seventy-four percent of Americans would prefer to give up alcohol for one month than give up a smartphone for one week. Notably, 84 percent of Millennials (18-29 years old) elected to give up alcohol compared to 74 percent of Baby Boomers and 71 percent of Gen Xers.

Americans are split between giving up sweets for one month (49 percent) or switching to a dumb phone for one week (51 percent).  A majority (57 percent) of respondents who report low happiness would give up sweets to keep the smartphone. A majority of (53 percent) of respondents who report high happiness would choose the dumb phone to keep sweets.

Eighty six percent of Americans would prefer to give up social networking for one day than fast for one day. However, 22 percent of respondents who report high anxiety levels would choose to give up food before social networking, while just 9 percent of respondents with low anxiety levels would give up food before social networking. 

Sixty-one percent of Millennials feel they should use their smartphone less often. Only 40 percent of Gen Xers and 14 percent of Baby Boomers felt the same way.