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Piri Piri Mojo Pork Loin FDS.jpg National Pork Board

Research explores what diners crave and why

Taste, health and convenience are three primary drivers of consumer decisions.

The National Pork Board (NPB) has released the latest findings from its comprehensive "Insight to Action" research, this time examining trends in consumer behavior related to dining out. With a shifting dining out landscape and multicultural cuisine trends on the rise in the U.S., NPB set out to understand the needs, considerations and motivations that affect out-of-home dining decisions.

NPB’s “All About Dining Out: What’s on Trend” report uncovers why consumers decide to eat the proteins they do and explores tactics so foodservice operators can meet those needs, such as exploring new flavors, dishes and menu formats. Similar to NPB’s findings from the previous report, “Dinner at Home in America,” there is an overarching, high level of consumer satisfaction with dishes that feature pork, pointing to an opportunity for incorporating pork in new ways on menus.

“With rapidly changing innovations, technology and competition, foodservice providers who truly understand what diners want – and deliver on it – will stand the test of time,” said Steve Rommereim, president of the NPB board of directors. “Consumer-driven insights are critical to our mission of increasing demand for pork. We want to spur innovation in collaboration with foodservice leaders and demonstrate that having more pork in more forms on more menus can increase consumer satisfaction and help drive operator profitability.”

By knowing and understanding these behavior drivers, NPB said foodservice operators have an opportunity to develop new menu items and shift consumer experiences to give diners experiences that meet these primary needs.

“Pork is the number-one-consumed protein globally, and yet fresh pork is the featured protein in less than 7% of entrée options when dining out in the U.S. That seems contradictory,” NPB vice president of domestic marketing Jarrod Sutton said. “With the growing popularity of Asian and Latin cuisines, where pork is a staple and a centerpiece, foodservice operators at every point on the spectrum have the opportunity to provide their customers with more flavorful and authentic options.”

The report found that there three primary drivers of consumer decisions when they're considering where and what to eat when dining out: taste, health and convenience.

Research also found that consumers like to treat themselves as they seek out menu options they don’t usually make at home. One in four consumers (27%) consistently look for something new to eat, and they see dining out as an opportunity to treat themselves and indulge a little bit. As NPB’s research revealed in January, consumers don’t keep pork on hand as often as other proteins.

“With it not being eaten at home as often, it can easily become that treat/indulgence they are looking for,” NPB noted.

However, healthy options are still important to consumers.

“While health isn’t the main reason people dine away from home, it’s still important to consumers that menus have healthy options. Restaurants can expand the menu to include healthy pork options – like the pork tenderloin or the pork sirloin chop – in the same set as other healthy proteins, such as chicken and seafood,” the report suggested.

Further, when health is the primary driver for a dining out decision, the research showed that roughly six in 10 diners want a food that is “reasonably healthy,” and roughly four in 10 want a food that fits their diet.

When asked what pork dishes they crave, 51% of respondents said they crave Mexican and Latin pork dishes, and 45% said they crave Asian pork dishes.

Convenience was the primary driver for consumers in 38% of away-from-home dining occasions, the report showed.

“Consumers have high expectations for convenience when out to eat, and technology and the proliferation of on-the-go dining options have helped meet that need,” NPB said.

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