Collegiate millennials shaping culinary trends of tomorrow

"On-the-go fare" among food needs driven by 18- to 22-year-olds.

College millennials' current needs for powerful nutrition, flavorful food, comfort and indulgence and speed and convenience are driving their food choices, which in turn shape the culinary trends of tomorrow.

As incoming college freshmen pack their bags for school this fall, many will be saying goodbye not only to family, but also to existing eating habits. Thanks to innovative campus foodservice, adventurous restaurants and the influence of new acquaintances, impressionable students are exposed to new foods that quickly turn into favorites. They develop new eating habits and expectations that will stick with them long after graduation, impacting the food industry for decades, according to the recently released Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report by market research publisher Packaged Facts and strategic food and beverage innovation agency CCD Innovation.

"The college environment, with its campus food courts, self-serve bars and convenience stores along with plenty of nearby cheap global eats, offers students an exceptional opportunity to experience new foods, flavor profiles and eating styles," said Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD Innovation, San Francisco. "Just as minds expand in the classroom, palates expand in college and are forever altered. The food industry will need to respond to these adventurous consumers as they leave campus and start earning their own paychecks."

To get an inside look at the dynamics of food attitudes and behaviors of the nearly 20 million 18- to 22-year-olds who are currently attending college, CCD Innovation conducted several online quantitative research studies in late 2011 and spring 2012 at several college campuses nationwide. From this research comes the basis of the report, which outlines seven culinary behaviors or preferences this cohort is developing that are distinct from previous generations.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo aims to reduce carbon emissions by 34% at its foodservice and facilities management sites by 2025, a goal it says it will reach through such changes as converting cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and using energy-efficient HVAC systems.

In announcing this endeavor toward sustainability, Sodexo—which manages more than 32,000 sites globally—noted that over 7,200 of its sites in North America recycle aluminum and paper, and 8,640 recycle cardboard.

Managing Your Business
business ladder climbing illustration

Recruiting talent is only half the battle for Mike Folino, associate director of nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Once he’s attracted good employees, providing clear opportunities for advancement can help retain them—but knowing when to bring up the topic in conversation can be tricky.

Prior to hiring

Folino likes to touch on advancement during the initial interview process, but the extent to which he does so changes case by case. “I have had interviews where we knew right away that we needed to discuss our structure and...

Ideas and Innovation
woman surprise

When I joined the staff at FoodService Director in the spring of 2015, I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn about the intricacies of the industry. My past experience, from kindergarten to my college days to on-the-job meals, would lead me to believe that noncommercial dining was a kind of automated process—an amenity that’s expected, and one you only become aware of if something goes wrong.

But as with my own household chores, there are no magical elves making sure the business of feeding students, seniors and hospital patients is done, and done well. Foodservice...

Managing Your Business
hands team

In November, students at University of Missouri in Columbia began leading protests against discrimination faced by people of color on campus—including some marches through the dining halls. Julaine Kiehn, director of the school’s campus dining services, said the 2015-16 school year was a tough one, but she was proud of MU’s students for being at the forefront of a national movement.

And not only did the protests launch important conversations with students, but also with staff. Kiehn heard the protests and thought that her student workers, at least, might not feel safe and welcome...

FSD Resources