5 College Food Trends You Should Be Considering


Food plays a role in college selection criteria, and staying ahead in today’s higher education market isn’t as easy as it used to be. Today’s younger generation is food-savvy and college students have more choices than ever before when it comes to their dining options. Did you know that more than 2/3 of students take advantage of deals offered by local and independent eateries? Considering almost 1/2 of college students don’t even have campus meal plans, that means that your dining halls have some tough competition.

In a recent interview with Xtalks, the Executive Director of Y-Pulse, a youth marketing and millennial research firm, discusses what this group is looking for when it comes to meals and which culinary trends are predicted to make a big impact on campus dining according to their Gen Next 2019 Trend Forecast Report. According to their research, they found that this group of consumers are significantly more interested in food than previous generations and are primarily concerned about health, nutrition, culinary adventure, and that their foods are sourced using ethical and sustainable practices.

5 College Food Trends You Should be Considering Now

  1. Purposeful Snacking
    According to Y-Pulse’s research, current trends reveal that students are much more aware and eager to eat more healthy and responsibly than prior generations, and 55% of respondents said that would be willing to pay more for organic and ethical snacks and meals.

  2. Conscious Consumerism
    Many of today’s young consumers consider themselves advocates for ethical and sustainable food practices. Not only did 64% percent of the students say that there were not enough ethically-produced snacks available, but that the majority of them said that they would pay more for such snacks. In order to attract this group, it’s going to become increasingly important for campus food service teams to ensure they are openly communicating about their ethical practices and efforts.

  3. Customizable Cuisine
    While this group is more open to trying plant-based foods than previous generations, they aren’t looking to cut it out altogether. What’s more important to them? Being able to customize dishes to suit evolving dietary needs and desires. It’s not so much about having a meat-alternatives, but rather the choice to include it or not and how much of it they want. Also, ensuring that your dining options provide options for students with allergies so they don’t feel singled out is a growing priority in college/university dining as well.

  4. Healthy Fast Food
    For Gen Z, the ideal food is healthy, quick and delicious. This is where healthy grab-and-go snacks stand out from the crowd. With 81% of respondents that believe they shouldn’t have to try too hard to eat better, making sure that they have healthy options that suit their their on-the-go lifestyle is going to be increasingly where it’s at.

  5. Adventurous Flavors
    Authenticity is crucial with this group of young foodies. The growing demand for multicultural food is most likely directly correlated from a growing exposure to diverse cultures and interaction between people of different backgrounds. The culinary trend to experiment with adventurous flavors is also due to the popularity of food fueled by social media, culture and television. Experiences are everything to Gen Z and 79% of those surveyed said that a restaurant’s ethnic food should be authentic.

In order to cater to this group of higher education foodies, it is becoming more and more necessary for college dining halls to match these new expectations when it comes to the flavor, convenience and food production practices. Developing menus that center around Gen Z’s food concerns is not only going to be the key to getting the attention of today’s college students, but future waves of Gen Z students as well.

Modern-day college students have more choices than ever, how does your dining team keep them coming back for seconds? Comment below.

Aurora TaiComment