Healthy Dining: Consumers in Conflict with Themselves

When it comes to healthy dining options, consumers seem to be in conflict with themselves. On one hand consumer research shows an ever-growing demand for healthy dining options. As we reported last month, the restaurant industry is scrambling to cater to millennials who won’t accept toxic fast food. Industry gurus speak of innovation to appeal to health-conscious consumers as essential for survival.

How do we square those proclamations with the viral success of the Dunkin’ Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich? It delivers an egg , bacon, and a sugar-glazed doughnut with 20 grams of fat in a sweet and salty package that even self-proclaimed healthy eaters are snapping up. Said Dunkin’ Donuts executive Chef Stan Frankenthaler about its test market success:

This was by far our biggest viral hit. Within days of the test, people were sending pictures, tweeting “look what I got!” or “this is so wrong!” and it was just incredible. By overwhelming popular vote, it had to stay.

Economist Thomas Schelling, a Nobel laureate, describes the consumer’s inner conflict in his book Choice and Consequence:

People behave sometimes as if they had two selves, one who wants clean lungs and long life and another who adores tobacco, or one who wants a lean body and another who wants dessert. The two are in continual contest for control.

Just as we have these conflicts within ourselves, we see a conflict in public policy. Some, such as Hank Cardello of the Hudson Institute, believe consumer demands for healthy food will carry the day, providing a market-based solution for healthier nutrition.

Others, like Marion Nestle of NYU, are not ready to leave it all in the hands of the restaurant industry. She says:

They’re not social service agencies — they’re places that are trying to make money by selling food. That’s their business. Sugar, salt and fat sells.

Based on the success Dunkin’ Donuts has had by putting a fried egg and bacon inside a glazed doughnut, her conclusion is tough to dispute.

Click here to read more about consumers conflicted about healthy eating in the New York Times, click here to read more about health and wealth for the food and beverage industry from, and click here to read more from ConscienHealth about millennials seeking healthy dining.

Inner Conflict, photograph © Jlhopgood / flickr

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