Study suggests healthy menu items can increase concession stand profits

"Adding variety, 5-10 new healthful items, will make it easier for customers to find something that they like."
By Brooks Hays  |  March 14, 2014 at 5:13 PM
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In case you haven't heard, America has an eating problem -- a weakness for fatty, sugary foods and large portions that's manifested itself in growing rates of obesity, especially among children.

Evidence shows, however, that given the option, a growing number of people will opt for more nutritious fare -- even at venues where'd you'd least expect it.

A new study suggests places like concession stands, known for their waist-expanding menu options, can actually increase revenues and encourage healthier eating by adopting healthier ingredients and adding just a few healthful items to their repertoire.

Over the last few years, the nation's public school system has been one of the few places to adopt sweeping dietary change, via regulation, in order to improve the food served to America's children for breakfast and lunch.

But while schoolchildren are a somewhat captive audience in the cafeteria, they're free to eat what they like at school concerts and sporting events. Concession stands, because they're operated for extracurricular fundraising purposes, are still allowed to proffer the old culprits of poor nutrition -- nachos, hotdogs, pizza, candy.

But a test case involving concession stands Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa, showed that by adding five to ten healthy food options, while modifying the ingredients of regular items to contain less saturated and trans fats, sellers can boost sales.

When healthier foods were offered, including menu items featuring carrots, apples, grilled chicken, and string cheese, sales increased.

"These results reveal the opportunities available for concession stand operators to improve the nutritional quality of what they sell, while maintaining customer satisfaction and profit," said Brian Wansink, co-author of the study.

"Adding variety, 5-10 new healthful items, will make it easier for customers to find something that they like. Try adding items such as, granola bars, fresh fruit, string cheese and mixed nuts. Rather than removing the less healthy options, make them using healthier ingredients and preparation methods -- patrons will still get the foods they love and they can feel better about eating them!"

The study was headed Dr. Helena Laroche, an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Iowa. Researchers from the Cornell Food & Brand Lab also helped. It was published in the most recent Journal of Public Health.

[Cornell Food & Brand Lab]

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