By Joshua Shier | Photographer Bryan Alano
Super foods like kale and quinoa have reached peak levels of popularity this year. The ‘ingredient transparency’, nutritional listings, and salads-as-meals trend in fast food has taken over. Smoothie consumption and juicing is no longer saved for vegans and commune-members from California. It’s high time we applaud the big guys in those corporate corner offices for starting to take a more serious look and healthier approach to the way in which our modern society eats. Take out is king, and the king’s starting to worry about his waistline.
As the trend gains popularity, better-for-you menu choices are going to continue proliferating menus across the board at all of our favourite drive-thru spots. More brands are putting more of their budget into minor and major health tweaks, in order to meet pickier consumers’ demands. It’s no surprise that the companies that are playing to an audience looking for healthier, more natural and organic options, are booming due to the newest food fashions. We’re not only seeing this through more menu options like salads, yogurt parfaits, etc., but also in the ingredient and cooking adjustments that help improve that nutrition profile of existing items at their core.
On the other side of the coin are coffee shops and coffee culture that has always been the cool best friend of the fast food industry. Somehow avoiding the harsh label of “unhealthy”, mainly due to the fact that the core of their business is beverages, retaining this image has become a bit more difficult in recent years.
The wool is no longer over our eyes when it comes to all those creamy frappucinos, buttery croissants and scones, and Caramel Brulee lattes. Some even joke that Starbucks is more involved with the dairy-industry than they are with the coffee industry. Now, in order to provide an alternative to the heavy, fatty, high-calorie menu choices, the coffee giants are looking to their old pal tea to breathe new life into a sinking ship. Even before when many people turned their nose up at traditional tea, new interest in the drink itself is being fostered because the industry has now added such strong sweetened fruit flavors, causing the bitter tannins to disappear.
The caveat is that it’s also just a naturally healthy beverage with none of the calories of fruit juice, and multiple healing benefits that can come from many different types of brews.
Altogether it’s clear, people are more interested, and more stringent than ever about what they are eating and where it’s coming from, and really the benefits of their food too. What’s at the top of their list though? Wanting to know it’s being grown responsibly, a.k.a. organic and local – ultimate buzzwords in today’s food world. Two of the most obvious trends include locally sourced meats, seafood, and produce, and companies that herald sustainability and farm-branded items. Not only is this good for us and our bodies, it’s also good for these mass-market fast food restaurant’s wallets. Fancy marketing and premium products equal a premium price. Luckily, people are willing to pay a premium for better ingredients, which are increasingly becoming more available. Farmers are starting understand that they can now produce and deliver higher quality products, because the market for it now exists. The idea of value to a consumer is based on fresh ingredients and good-tasting quality food. We can thank this whole movement from the growth of the ‘better food for a better body‘ ideal, something that has become the norm.