Published on: June 2, 2015by Michael Sansolo
Which fat is best for you to eat: saturated, unsaturated or trans?
Or try this: is the cholesterol in eggs good or bad for you? How about salt or carbs or gluten?
Some of these answers are absolutes (trans fats are to be avoided). Some are under constant reconsideration and interpretation (is gluten good, bad or what?). Incredibly, these may be among the simplest questions when it comes to how shoppers perceive health.
The reason is perception usually becomes reality and that means the healthy attributes that lift you one day may sink you the next. An incredible lesson is developing right now at Subway, the nation’s massive sandwich shop.
Subway, which has nearly 44,000 units - far more than even McDonald’s - is suddenly in trouble. Sales are declining faster than any other top chain, franchisees are getting anxious and prospects are looking poor.
Incredibly, the culprit seems to be the very issue that propelled Subway’s sales growth for most of the past decade: healthy eating. Apparently the feel-good story of Jared losing all his weight by eating Subway subs and the clever marketing of fat and calorie counts compared to McDonald’s and Burger King isn’t selling any more.
There was a single telling line in a powerful Washington Post story about Subway that all businesses need to consider concerning health or any other issue.
“What Americans see as healthy has evolved; Subway has not.”
As the article points out, the image of healthy fast food has shifted. Consumers like the upfront information and open preparation at Chipotle far more than the pre-sliced meats on wax paper at Subway.
(You can read the entire article here.)
The calorie counts and fat content story hasn’t changed, but consumer perceptions of healthier food has shifted. Now Subway is suffering.
That’s a cautionary tale for every other type of business out there - a reminder that customer wants, competition and standards are constantly changing.
It is the Annie Hall reference we use often here on MNB - that sharks need to constantly swim forward or die. Every business competitor has to be like a shark - moving forward in order to survive. Subway seems to have stopped moving forward.
Healthy eating trends move as fast as anything. Today the intersection of food and health fashion meets at items like kale, Sriracha and ancient grains. A few years back it was pomegranates and probiotics. If you haven’t moved forward with those changes, you look dated and irrelevant.
Like a dead shark.
Join me for a discussion of healthy eating issues during a special webinar being held Wednesday by The Food Institute. You can get more information here.
- KC's View: