Seven years ago, fast food was beginning an evolution into a new category. Brands that were busy pushing deals littered with mentions of ‘2 for $5’ and ’10 for $10’ might have lost sight of that which was inevitable: an evolution of the category into healthier on-the-go options. While only a handful of brands were changing the focus to healthier, more natural options, fans made clear that they didn’t want to sacrifice nutrition for convenience or price.

In 2009, Panera Bread and Subway sat at the top of the chopping block with their promises to deliver cleaner pairings than their competitors, something that the brands still boast today. It was around this time that the conversation in the fast food industry was starting to change to one that included portion control and nutrition value, even down to the tiniest micronutrient.

Brands knew they had to adapt to keep consumers interested and coming through the door. They also knew that consumers were more on-the-go than ever. The challenge was clear: How can we create quick, plentiful and healthy options at the consumers’ convenience?

Image courtesy of Neja Drozg

Image courtesy of Neja Drozg

McDonald’s weaved a healthier thread into the debut of its all-day breakfast menu with its “breakfast bowl.” This is part of the chain’s “Eat Smart, Be Active” initiative, which started way back in the early 2000s. Other fast food giants, like Wendy’s and Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., are zeroing in on ethically sourced, good ole American beef (because THAT’S where the beef is, lady!).

Sure, it seems pretty weird that one would seek out a healthy option while sitting in the drive-thru, but fast food is changing, and now we need to change our mindsets. Soon enough, we might come to expect those establishments to offer healthier, more natural options for diners of all palates. For instance, who would have thought Taco Bell would be synonymous with the words ‘healthiest fast-food chain’? We couldn’t believe it at first, either, but thanks to its Cantina protein-packed menu, it’s true.

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Image courtesy of Mark's Daily Apple

Whether brands want to admit it or not, consumers want healthier options in every facet of the dining experience. It all comes down to choice and how much you are willing to let your consumers impact that.

MARKETING LESSON: Change can be a necessary opportunity. Pay attention to the trends in your industry, as they will guide the decisions that impact your marketing strategy.