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.

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