The broader restaurant industry has already jumped on the bandwagon, fueling a sharp rise in these better-for-you items on menus. During the past five years, quinoa appearances on menus have surged 1,200 percent, kale 1,100 percent and Greek yogurt 900 percent, according to Technomic's MenuMonitor.
At least two large fast food chains are testing whether the rise in Greek yogurt seen in the grocery aisle will translate into higher sales at the drive thru. This summer, Yum Brands' Taco Bell said it would be testing Greek yogurt made with natural ingredients with a premium granola topping in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Known more for its breaded chicken and waffle fries, privately held Chick-fil-A also tiptoed into the Greek yogurt waters. A parfait creamy honey vanilla twist on the tart item started testing in greater Philadelphia, Inland Empire, California, Middle Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee last summer. It also tried out a steel-cut oatmeal dish with flax and buckwheat.
Some of fast food's new, healthful items are aimed as much at driving incremental sales as they are at boosting a brand's image, said Larry Light, CEO of consulting firm Arcature. Previously global chief marketing officer at McDonald's, Light helped worked on the introduction of premium salads at the Golden Arches.
"If we only look at sales of an individual item, we can underestimate the value to the brand," he added in a phone interview.