Stealthy Healthy
Bloomberg Businessweek|January 31, 2022
Purveyors of clean food are trying a new tactic: Subterfuge.
Kate Krader
The Texas wagyu tri-tip is as popular as you’d expect it to be at the Well, a 20-minute walk from the state Capitol building in Austin.

This plate of steak comes with a secret, though: The accompanying barbecue sauce is sweetened with beets, not sugar. The tacos at the restaurant use tortillas fashioned from cassava flour, which, unlike white flour, is gluten-free, higher in protein and fiber, and lower in calories. And cocktails such as the Valldemosa are sweetened with dandelion honey instead of syrup.

But the team behind the restaurant would rather not make a big deal about it. Owner Jack Zimmermann says the key to the Well’s success—he’s already planning a new branch in West Austin in April—is keeping the healthfulness discreet. “Instead of leading with ‘We are gluten-free, dairy-free, a clean-oil-only restaurant,’ we say, ‘We care a lot about modern American ingredients.’ And if they want to talk, we say, ‘By the way, all our ingredients are clean.’ ”

Here the focus is on nutrition, but with the option to throw some nitrate-free, house-made bacon into the mix for its clientele, which includes transplanted tech employees from the nearby offices of Deloitte, Google, and Meta. “Austin didn’t have a comprehensive dining experience where you can have a smoothie and grain bowls but also cocktails and steak, and still wake up feeling great,” Zimmermann says.

In 2020 the loosely defined health and wellness global food market was estimated to be $764 billion. It’s projected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2027; since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic consumers have shown a growing awareness about what goes into the food they eat and how it makes them feel afterward.

“It’s a trend that’s grown out of quarantine,” says Rob Rubba, chef-partner at Oyster Oyster in Washington, D.C. “A lot of people had to start cooking for themselves and saw what goes into their dishes. Our diners are more conscious about what we’re serving them.”

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