Healthy Food - What Attendees Want

Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPM most recently presented at the 2019 NEC in Detroit on, Top 10 F&B Questions Answered. Tracy is a dynamic, engaging speaker who will prompt your audience to evaluate, refine and use food and beverage functions to improve their events and their event participants. Through her personal experience as event planner for more than two decades and one of 15 million people in the U.S. with food allergies, Tracy sits at both sides of the table and offers solutions for feeding all guests safely, healthy and deliciously. In her following blog, the results are clear – guests want to eat healthier. Multiple 2018 studies indicate that consumers are showing a growing awareness of the importance of eating healthy.

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The Dietary Disconnect
While Americans want to start eating better, there seems to be some confusion and different opinions about what “eating healthy” really means. For some, it's choosing to eat high-protein diets. For others, it's reducing their gluten or dairy intake. According to a 2018 study conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), one in three Americans follow some type of diet or eating program that they deem to be healthy. A person's definition of “healthy” food could also depend on their own health concerns or goals.

Two Top Health Concerns
Losing or maintaining weight is a prevalent concern for Americans. The leading culprits of weight gain are sugars and carbs. The blame is placed primarily on those two ingredients, and many of our attendees are trying to reduce their intake or cut them out completely.
The other leading health concern among Americans is cardiovascular, also known as heart health. However, consumers understand far less about what foods to look for that would aid them in improving their cardiovascular system.

The Role of Meeting Planners
Part of our role as meeting planners is to understand what our clients and their guests want and provide it. Clearly, there is a rise in health-conscious eating, which we need to deliver. We also have the knowledge and the power to provide healthier meals to our guests that can aid them in their health goals. This can be tricky since guests have differing health goals, but it is definitely possible.

We can start by focusing on serving food that addresses the two top health concerns of our guests – weight gain and cardiovascular health. We can also make sure to provide options for those with food allergies, sensitivities or religious practices.

Labeling food is also critical. More and more consumers want to know what they are eating, and many actively seek out some key terms that make them feel healthier and confident about their food choices.

Healthy Buzzwords
There are a few buzzwords in the F&B industry that are universally deemed “healthy” and are attracting more and more attention from consumers.

There has been a dramatic increase in the demand for organic food and ingredients. Organic produce contains fewer pesticides, and organic meat will not contain the harmful byproducts of antibiotics or growth hormones. There is a sense of comfort that the word “organic” provides meaning that the food does not contain harmful chemicals so commonly used in more large-scale agriculture and husbandry companies.

Consumers view natural ingredients in a favorable light for many of the same reasons they lean towards organic produce and meat – the term implies fewer chemicals. Conversely, artificial ingredients turn people away from products. The idea is that products made from natural ingredients are more straightforward and healthy, whereas artificial ingredients insinuate consuming chemicals made in a lab.

The non-GMO Project defines genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) as GMOs are the opposite of the natural trend that consumers crave, so non-GMO is often perceived as healthier than food with GMOs.

The F&B industry has the potential to make massive strides in aiding attendees in their health goals, no matter what they are. Providing proper food labeling and healthier food options are just two simple ways that we can start changing our menus to cater to guests' needs.