Fast-food restaurants are attracting more health-conscious consumers

April 17, 2012

A new study from local market consumer research firm Scarborough reveals that health-conscious consumers, defined as American adults who belong to a gym and buy local or organic food, make up 9% (21 million) of the American adult (age 18+) population. However, even these health-conscious consumers can’t resist the expanding healthy menu options or the convenience of quick-service restaurants (QSR); 74% of these consumers visited a fast-food restaurant for lunch in the past 30 days.

Health-conscious consumers’ choice of QSRs for lunch in the past 30 days differs from the preferences of the rest of American adults who have had fast food for lunch in the past 30 days. For example, health-conscious consumers are more than twice as likely as all American adults to dine at Panera Bread for lunch and 8% more likely to eat at Subway for lunch in the same time frame. Although they dine more at fast-food establishments that have healthy options, more than one-quarter (26%) of all health-conscious consumers dined at a fast-food restaurant at least 10 times in the past 30 days.

Health-conscious consumers who dined at a fast-food restaurant for lunch in the past 30 days are 13% more likely than all other fast-food lunch diners to be female (58%) and they are 66% more likely to have at least a college degree. Sixty-one percent of all health-conscious consumers are married and 41% have one or more children under the age of 17 in their household. They are 66% more likely than all fast-food lunch diners to have an annual household income of $100K or more. More than half (51%) of all health-conscious consumers who dined at a fast-food restaurant for lunch in the past 30 days hold white collar employment.

“This latest analysis reflects the enormous shift in the quick-service restaurants’ initiatives toward healthier menu options and branding,” said Alisa Joseph, Vice President of Advertiser Services for Scarborough’s parent company, Arbitron. “Fast-food companies feel pressure to change their messaging to a more health-conscious tone as they are aware that the average consumer is now more aware of the healthier menu options available. Though price point is still important to their core customers, healthy menu options within that price point will satisfy the customers they have as well as grow their health-conscious consumer segment.”

Press release