Will fast food die from consumer obesity?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 28, 2003

Will fast food die from consumer obesity?

Fast food chains of every size, including big names such as McDonald's and Burger King, must change their approach to food or face extinction, says food trends and consumer analyst, Philip Lempert, of SupermarketGuru.com.

The latest SupermarketGuru Quick Poll suggests that 60% of consumers are now eating less fast food than they did 12 months ago, and that 33% feel that the big fast food chains will be forced to downsize due to the declining appeal of existing trademark products.

"It's already happening. McDonald's has announced its first quarterly loss ever, and the second largest Burger King franchisee has filed for bankruptcy," said Lempert. "Fast food chains seem to think that the way to recapture consumer attention and loyalty is through price cuts, with value menus and 99-cent burgers. They aren't listening to consumers."

Consumer health concerns The poll results indicate that, if fast food chains want to improve their competitive position, they must change with the times by offering a greater variety of products, including healthier, more nutritious meals.

Just under 33% of the poll's respondents agreed that fast food chains should add healthier food to their menus, including products that are lower in fat and calories, lower in sodium, and with less frying used in food preparation. And close to 20% said that they wanted a greater variety of foods when they go to fast food restaurants.

Repeating the past "In many ways, we feel these numbers just scratch the surface of consumer discontent with the fast food experience, and if chains don't change their basic approach to food, they may disappear," Lempert speculates. "Their window of opportunity may be as small as five years."

In 1975 there were over 1,000 Howard Johnson's restaurants in the USA. With its trademark orange roof, HoJo cola and countless ice cream flavours, the chain was very well known to consumers from coast to coast. But with its unwillingness to adapt to the new consumer fast food trend, trade declined. Today, according to Lempert, the chain has less than 100 restaurants throughout the USA.

"Fast food chains must be more proactive about questions regarding food safety and food security, and deal with the issue of childhood obesity in a way that is both responsible and responsive," warned Lempert.

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