Fried and/or breaded appetizers—such as wings, fries, chicken tenders and crispy vegetable offerings—stand out as popular snack options on appetizer menus. However, Technomic data routinely show that consumers believe fried food is not healthy. In fact, more than half of consumers polled for the “Future of Fried Foods” study (51%) said they think eating fried foods regularly will cause them to gain weight.
Deep-fried foods, in particular, are considered to be less healthy than any other preparation style. However, stir-fried options seem to be perceived as relatively healthy; stir-fried foods—typically vegetables and/or lean meats—use only minimal amounts of oil and are not breaded.
Technomic’s consumer research on fried food attitudes and behaviors shows the nation’s eating habits and beliefs about fried foods to be very much in flux. While negative attitudes about fried foods were widespread in certain groups, cravings also ran high.
One in five consumers “strongly agree” that their fried-food purchases at restaurants are usually on impulse, and more than two in five agree that the smell of fried foods elicits a craving. On average, almost a third of respondents (32%) agree or strongly agree that they like to order fried foods from a restaurant, because they do not normally make them at home.
If French fries can represent “fried foods,” the number of fries on offer has increased 13% in the second quarter of 2012 from the same period in 2010. That includes sweet potato fries; the incidence of sweet potato fries increased a whopping 90% (from a small base of 29 items at 29 chains to 55 items at 55 chains). Seasoned fries and cheese fries also increased in number, and even plain old French fries are up 4% in that period.
On the appetizer menu, breaded cheese, calamari, chicken strips, fried calamari, onion rings, chicken wings and French fries are all among the most popular starters on menus. Under desserts, the fried dessert category is up 9% in that period, which is a little more than the 6% increase in the number of desserts overall.
The following chart lists some items that are fried or include fried elements that are new to the menus of some leading restaurant concepts.