Dieting Down, Exercise Up, Time & Convenience Rule

Aramark reveals away-from-home dining survey results

PHILADELPHIA -- According to a national survey of away-from-home eating habits released today by institutional foodservice provider Aramark Corp., Americans are dieting less, with 62% of adults saying they are not on a diet, up from 57% in 2004. At the same time, those exercising at least twice each week has increased from 48% to 52% in 2005, suggesting that both sound eating habits and physical activity are required for health and wellness.

The company's Nutritional DiningStyles research was presented this week at the annual conference of the North [image-nocss] American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Aramark's Nutritional DiningStyles Research reports American adults now rank time and convenience as their top motivation when eating meals away from home, up from No. 3 in 2004 and surpassing variety for the first time. As a result, adults now consume on average more than 5.6 meals away from home each week, citing time, convenience and value as the top motivating factors. Breakfasts purchased away from home showed the biggest gain in 2005, up nearly 20% over last year; however, health consciousness also moved up in priority to the No. 4 position, driven primarily by those adults who were already most interested in nutrition.

"Our Nutritional DiningStyles Research is invaluable in helping us track the eating habits of our customers and then tailoring our culinary and nutritional programs to meet their needs," said Chris Malone, senior vice president of marketing at Aramark, Philadelphia. "Our research suggests that more education and simplified nutrition information is needed. It also shows that we need to better understand when people form their nutritional habits, how they change over time and what kinds of guidance and promotion are effective at encouraging better choices."

Although health consciousness has increased in priority, those strongly attempting to watch their weight and limit their fat intake is down slightly from 33% to 29% in 2005, driven mostly by those who have abandoned low-carbohydrate diets. Nonetheless, watching weight and limiting fat remain the top nutritional concerns, followed by monitoring sugar intake at 26%, limiting calorie intake at 22% and limiting trans fatty acid intake at 21%. Limiting carbohydrate intake fell to 18% from 23% in 2004.

Finding healthy meal choices away from home remains one of the most challenging issues for consumers, however, as 44% strongly agreed they would order healthy items more often away from home if more appealing choices were available, up from 41% in 2004.

Since 2004, Aramark has introduced several programs and user-friendly tools to strengthen its healthier eating message. The latest offering is the Nutritional DiningStyles Calculator, an online guide that allows consumers to learn their own Nutritional DiningStyle by answering a few questions and then provides nutritional education and guidance for each.

Aramark used results of earlier DiningStyles Research to introduce the company's Just4U dining program, which features healthy menu options, including those with fewer calories, less sodium and fewer total carbs and many items labeled "low-fat," or "heart healthy." The program, which received support from the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association, started with 800 chef-tested and dietitian-approved healthier recipes, has grown to 1,300 and, by year's end, will feature more than 2,000.

The Nutritional DiningStyles research, conducted by Datassential Research and analyzed by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, independent research firms, consisted of 5,279 online interviews with adults aged 18 and over from across the United States. The data was weighted for age, gender, race and socio-economic status to ensure the total sample accurately reflected the U.S. adult population.