Calorie counts on menus have few long term effects

by Editor
Friday, April 08, 2011

Calorie information on menus will most likely have little long-term effect on consumer ordering patterns, according to a new survey by NPD Group, a market research company that tracks consumer trends.

NPD conducted the survey among adults ages 18 and older as part of a recent report entitled “Consumers Define Healthy Eating When They Go Out to Eat.” Panelists were asked to indicate items they would order from two versions of a typical fast food hamburger restaurant menu. Their first exposure was to a typical menu board without calorie information. Their second exposure was to the same menu board, but with calorie counts shown alongside the price of each item. The before and after ordering patterns were then compared.

After viewing the menu with the calories posted, consumers ordered items that amounted to fewer calories, but the difference in calories was relatively small. The average number of calories ordered when calories were posted was 901, compared to 1,021 when calories were not posted. The NPD study also found that consumers ordered about the same number of items when calories were posted. They ordered, on average, 3.3 when calories weren’t posted, versus 3.2 when they were.