freshness (Yankelovich, 2006). This process will require continued investment in improved technologies that can make healthier foods and beverages taste better, that can improve convenience (e.g., longer shelf life and reduced preparation time) and that can offer high value (e.g., low cost products with innovative packaging). This investment can emerge from consumer demand and the success of early versions of these products in the marketplace.
Many full serve restaurants and QSRs are expanding the availability of healthier items on their menus; establishing their own guidelines for advertising and marketing of food, beverages, and meals; and educating their customers by providing nutrition information and product labeling. For example, Burger King provides a nutrition guide online; Denny’s has the D-Zone Kids’ Menu; Pizza Hut has the Fit ‘N Delicious menu; and Chick-fil-A advertises The Trim Trio™, a combination meal with 330 calories, less than 4 grams of fat, and no trans fat (Cohn, 2006).
These efforts are now beginning to get some recognition through innovative awards programs that are being established to highlight restaurants that offer healthier choices. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee established an awards program for restaurants under his Healthy Arkansas initiative (2006). This program was developed to recognize restaurants that assist Arkansas residents to make healthy choices when they eat away from home. Three categories of awards (gold, silver, and bronze) are given to restaurants that meet specified standards established for food safety; provide healthier menu options, such as at least one fruit and vegetable without added sugar or fat, and nutrition information and education about the their meals; and have designated smoke-free areas. Restaurants may show Healthy Arkansas Restaurant logos to promote their receipt of the award. Currently, 138 restaurants across the state have applied for the designation as a Healthy Arkansas establishment. Among the QSRs that have received the designation are McDonald’s Corporation, Subway, and a variety of Yum! Brands chains including Burger King and Pizza Hut.
The restaurant sector’s previous attempts to change products and sell healthier menu items, such as McDonald’s Corporation’s McLean Deluxe burger and Taco Bell’s lower-fat Border Lights menu, launched in the 1990s, have received mixed results (Collins, 1995; Ramirez, 1991). The reasons for their low profitability are complex and not well documented. McLean Deluxe may have benefited from a more creative presentation and promotional effort while Border Lites may have had less appeal to their teenage customer base. The new menu introductions may have been too early for consumers to perceive them as necessary, as the obesity epidemic has only recently been raised to the level of broad public awareness.
Alternatively, these early attempts to sell healthier options may have been unprofitable because the main consumer benefit that was marketed