Campus Food Trends

A recent search on food trends across colleges and universities in the US turned up some surprising, and not-so-surprising, results when it comes to the food choices and expectations students have on their campus foodservice program.

The same critical hot topics in food that are having a wide impact across North America are also trending at campuses across the country. There’s a demand for more ethnically diverse options, with French, Mexican and Indian cuisine growing in popularity. Students are also looking for easier access to fresh and sustainably sourced ingredients and prefer a “farm-to-campus” concept when it comes to their food options.

Customization is key!

Students want more control when it comes to portion size, spice level and more options that take their dietary restrictions into account. There is a strong demand for gluten-free, dairy-free, free-run, vegan and vegetarian across campuses and with all of the dietary and ethical considerations that have to be discussed. The opportunity to add mushrooms with their distinctive range or use and flavor profile, has never been more apparent. Mushrooms hit the mark when it comes to diversity, sustainability, and mindful eating.

Students are Making Decisions

Surprisingly, we learned that prospective students are now heavily weighing on-campus food options, almost as much as they consider the programming offered, when it comes to the decision of what school they will attend.

Students are also looking to their on-campus food service providers as a place to build community. Not only do they want their food to be delicious, nutritious, and prepared by a culinary master, using sustainable practices, they want the space in which they consume their meals to be conducive to relationship building and include ambiance. Gone are the days of sterile, cold cafeterias. Students want warm, inviting, open, well-lit and well-designed spaces that nurture relationship building and act as a backdrop to their carefully chosen meal.

Students are also listening and are “following” food in their online worlds. Statistics show that more and more students are reaching for more healthy, whole based foods and fewer higher-risk food, which is reflected in the conversations this generation is having online.

Say goodbye to morning choices of sugary, doughy, preservative-filled breakfast items and heavy nighttime options of processed foods, laden with sodium and of little nutritional values. The new trend welcomes small portions of fresh chopped organic veggies accompanied with in-house made dip or hummus and ethically raised protein creatively prepared in dishes such as those we inspire with The Blend.

As we watch these students reach for their first on-campus meal, we are actually watching them reach for the foods they are used to eating at home. It will be interesting to continue watching as future generations (the children of these students) make their choices as these current, healthy trends continue to dominate the food industry.