Top Food Trends for Canadian Millennial Parents in 2013 – Keep it Local and Nutritious

Now that we’re half-way through the year 2013, I think it’s about time to review how far along predicted food trends are in Canada, specifically as they relate to the fastest growing generation of new parents, Canadian Millennials.

The NRA Forecasts Top 10 Menu Trends:

Late last year the National Restaurant Association (NRA) released its annual “What’s Hot” culinary forecast, which predicts the hottest menu trends for the coming year. For 2013, the NRA surveyed more than 1,800 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – and nearly 200 professional bartenders – members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG). You can download the full survey results here:

The top 10 menu trends for 2013 according to the NRA survey include:

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids’ meals
4. Environmental sustainability
5. Children’s nutrition
6. New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
7. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
8. Gluten-free cuisine
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals

When comparing the 2013 predictions to those for 2012, locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, and healthful kids’ meals remain in the top three trends forecasted. So, did restaurants start making big changes in 2013 to adopt the hyper-local and kid-focused menu trends?

Healthful Kids’ Meals & Children’s Nutrition:

Unfortunately for American children, a new study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), found that more than 9 in 10 childrens’ meals, of almost 3,500 studied from national chain restaurants, did not meet nutrition standards for healthy eating. These healthy eating standards suggest that a children’s meal contain no more than 430 calories, no more than 35 percent of calories from fat, and no more than 770 mg sodium, among several other suggestions. To add to these unhealthy findings, according to the standards set by the NRA’s own Kids LiveWell Program, 91% of kids’ meals failed to meet healthy eating standards. In that case the standards require that at a children’s meal with beverage contain fewer than 600 calories, contain no more than 35 percent of calories from fat, and contain at least two servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

Canadian Restaurants are Making Changes:

So, how do Canadian restaurant chains compare on these healthy eating statistics? We’re not quite sure because there is no comparable data for Canadian kids’ meals in 2013, which is definitely a missed opportunity for Canadian organizations to impress Millennial parents. However, a quick review of the menus of some of the largest quick service resturant chains in Canada reveals that there is very little effort being made to ensure our children are eating healthy. Here are a few of the somewhat healthier options offered within kids’ meals at each of the following restaurants:

  • McDonald’s:  4 piece White-meat Chicken McNuggets, Chicken Snack Wrap, Apple slices, 1% white milk, Apple or Orange fruit juice, Small Real Fruit Smoothie, Yogurt
  • Tim Hortons: NONE
  • SUBWAY: Mini sub (Ham, Turkey Breast or Roast Beef), Apple slices, Apple or Orange fruit juice, 1% Low Fat White Milk
  • Burger King: 4 piece Chicken Tenders, Unsweetened Harvest Apple Sauce with Calcium, Apple or Orange fruit Juice, Small Real Fruit Smoothie
  • Taco Bell: NONE
  • Wendy’s: 4 piece chicken nuggets, strawberry yoghurt, apple or orange fruit juice
  • Pizza Hut: Italian House Salad w low fat raspberry Dressing, Carrot & Celery Sticks
  • Pizza Pizza: NONE

Overall I have to admit that I’m most disappointed with Tim Hortons due to their complete lack of healthy eating efforts. With there being about 1 Tim Hortons for every 10,000 Canadians you would think they would have introduced some form of healthy kids meal by now. I enjoy their coffee and would love to bring my son their on occasion, so I hope they jump on this untapped opportunity sooner rather than later.

Children Love Their Toys:

To end with an interesting finding, a National Post article revealed findings from a new Canadian research study that stated, “children are far more likely to pick a healthier fast-food meal when promotional toys are offered only with those menu options and not with less nutritional fare like burgers, fries and a pop, a study has found.” 

In order to encourage healthy eating and detract from unhealthy eating, do you think there should be restrictions on which kids’ meals can include promotional items like toys? Should restaurants have to ensure their children’s menu options meet certain healthy eating standards to be allowed to promote them to children at all?



Sean Copeland is a certified marketing research professional (CMRP) known for his broad knowledge of the research workflow, his disruptive approach to problem solving and for building strong client relationships. In over 5 years Sean has developed, sold, executed, and managed hundreds of consumer research studies using a variety of new and traditional research methodologies.

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