What’s that line around the block? For a burger joint? And what’s in these chicken nuggets? Bulgur wheat? And since when did sriracha become a fast-food condiment?
In recent decades, the term “fast food” went from positive to pejorative, becoming perceived as a quick fix of salt, sugar and grease. But the timely collision of several national dialogues on nutrition, locally-sourced ingredients and the digital revolution have caused a real change in thinking.
It’s seen in chef David Chang’s $8.00 spicy fried chicken sandwich at his upscale “fast-casual” restaurant, Fuku. Or in the vegetable puree and togarashi-topped flatbread pizza substitute at Oakland’s revolutionary Loco’l. Or in the 30+ assembly-line salad locations of Sweetgreen, whose $100 million in venture funding was championed by billionaire AOL co-founder Steve Case.
This “American food revolution” did not happen overnight. It took two decades for wine to see a 50% increase in consumption, while the USDA’s move to certify foods as organic took nearly as long.
But with examples like McDonald’s closing 400 more restaurants than it opened, along with their statement of wanting to move entirely to sustainable beef, it’s clear that there is considerable economic pressure to reinvent the food that we think of as “fast.”
Marketers take note: Socially-conscious Millennials and aging Baby Boomers (looking to preserve their vitality) have demonstrated a willingness to spend their disposable income on quality food products. Those who think beyond illustrating benefits will see the reciprocity principle realized: A segment will take root when credence is given to both its aspirations and beliefs.