Expo Gives Insight to Food Trends

Sodexo event tests college students’ tastes.

Sodexo Food Expo, Seattle Pacific UniversitySEATTLE—More than 1,500 students participated in Sodexo’s fourth Food Trends Expo at 3,800-student Seattle Pacific University. Lara Seng, district marketing manager for Sodexo at the university, says the expo provided an opportunity directly hear from students.

“Each semester we go to a different university and invite chefs from all over the country to come in and prepare more than 70 recipes for students to try,” Seng said. “It’s a great way for the students to let us know what they like best. Then we feature those menu items the following semester on our campus dining menus across the country. So it’s a great way for us to be on trend, and the students have a great day tasting everything.”

The expo was set up like a grocery store tasting, only on a gargantuan scale, according to Seng.

“We had about 22 different stations set up with a different group of chefs working each one,” Seng said. “Each station had at least two and sometimes up to five or six different items. The students just went around at their leisure and tried whatever they wanted and then they marked off what they thought of that particular menu item on a ballot, which we then tabulated by the end of the day. The recipes came from Sodexo chefs and then we worked with our vendor partners on the different products that would go into the recipes. There were more than 30 chefs present at the expo.”

Sodexo Food Expo, Seattle Pacific UniversityIn conjunction with the expo, Sodexo released a menu for 2009 that compared current food trends to those from 20 years ago. Some of the trends from 1989 included fruit and cottage cheese plates, chicken nuggets, turkey tetrazzini and chicken chop suey. Compare those to current trends of locally grown fruits and veggies, crispy garlic-ginger chicken wings, mac and five cheeses and Vietnamese pho and it’s easy to see the appeal of the Food Trends Expo. The top foods tasted at SPU’s expo included roasted Asian chicken salad on flatbread, sautéed swiss chard with balsamic flatbread pizza, chicken and cheese flautas and funnel cake fries. The menu items will be integrated into campus menus starting next fall with an icon denoting them as items that were voted on by students.

 “It’s a really great way to show our commitment to customer insight—because how much more direct can you get?” said Monica Zimmer, director of public relations for Sodexo. “It’s not just research from somewhere. We prepared it for them, they tasted it and they told us what they liked. It’s really fun, but it’s really a commitment to customer satisfaction.”

To drive student participation, Seng said she worked with students to do some marketing on Facebook. She also created posters and table tents so they could get as many students as possible at the expo.

“A normal Friday at lunch was about 900, and we had 1,500 students come in during the three-hour period,” Seng said. “We really dramatically increased participation. I even heard students talking about getting out of class so they could come to the tasting.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Just over 100 foodservice workers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have voted to join a branch of the Service Employees International Union, KIMT reports.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota said that 89% of the ballots cast during last week’s election were in favor of unionizing.

The workers are employed by Sodexo, Mayo Clinic’s current foodservice vendor. The clinic recently announced plans to switch vendors to Morrison Healthcare Food Services, a move that has sparked backlash from workers and led to a lawsuit from the SEIU .

Read the full story via kimt.com .

Sponsored Content
pasta dish from NC State

From Barilla.

Good-for-you food doesn’t do much good if it’s a hard sell to get diners to eat it. Luckily, pasta is nearly always a crowd-pleaser, especially with student athletes who benefit from its nutritional boost.

“One thing about pasta is that students like it,” says Lisa Eberhart, a registered dietician and director of nutrition and wellness for North Carolina State University, where they serve Barilla pasta. “It’s also a great source of slow-burning carbohydrates.”

In fact, 57% of Gen Z consumers and 58% of millennials call pasta a “preferred food,”...

Industry News & Opinion

The Los Angeles Unified School District has lifted its ban on flavored milk in an effort to reduce food waste, the Los Angeles Times reports.

After implementing the ban in 2011, the district noticed that many students would simply throw away their unused milk containers, causing them to end up in landfills. In order to combat the problem, the district’s board is launching a four-part study in 21 schools that will examine different ways to encourage kids to drink more plain milk.

One of the theories proposed is that students will be more likely to drink plain milk if they...

Industry News & Opinion

As Harvard University’s dining staff strike continues , the school has added an extra $25 to student accounts, providing more flexibility for students to eat outside of the dining halls, The Harvard Crimson reports.

The extra funds were added to Crimson Cash and BoardPlus accounts, which students can use to pay for food both on and off campus.

Aside from some technical issues with payment processing, students are grateful for the extra money, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Since the strike began two weeks ago, students have complained about food quality in the...

FSD Resources