Calorie labelling shifts habits

The first UK-wide restaurant brand to print calorie information on its menus has reported a slight shift away from red meat in its 176 outlets.

Harvester, which serves around 25 million meals each year, says that since calorie labelling was introduced six months ago, more consumers are choosing white meat and fish over red meat dishes. There has also been a 2% reduction in people’s average calorie consumption — the equivalent of around 25 calories.

Adam Martin, Harvester’s marketing and strategy director, admitted that “there are many factors at work”, but said that it appeared there had been a “small but discernible change in behaviour” by diners. He added: “As a number of leading companies like McDonald’s follow suit and introduce calories on their menus, it will be interesting to see if other chains see similar results.”

Harvester and McDonald’s — which introduced calorie information on menus across its 1,200 UK restaurants this week —  are two of 37 companies that have agreed to voluntarily provide calorie information as part of the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal. The Department of Health hopes that more than 5,000 high street food outlets will sign up to the scheme by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, consumer organisation Which? urged more restaurants to adopt calorie labelling, stating that research shows that two-thirds of consumers think it is important to know the calorie content of food. Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “Our research shows that most people want to see calorie information for their meals. If calorie labelling cannot be achieved on a voluntary basis, we want the government to make it a legal requirement.”

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