Foods with function and flavor

Why foods with a boost are jumping onto diners’ plates.

quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby boomers entering senior living are more interested in healthy foods than older residents, says Michael Christner, corporate executive chef for Erickson Living in Cantonsville, Md. They’re more likely to look for supergrains like quinoa and freekeh.

Yet even boomers aren’t asking for supplements or foods just because they aid digestion or alertness. “Our residents aren’t going to look for a protein bar,” Christner says. Instead, Erickson offers a holistic approach, eschewing processed goods in favor of whole foods. Snacks are not protein bars, but fruit, vegetables, nuts and berries. If residents do ask for dishes high in amino acids, chefs will serve trout. But they don’t label or sell it as such.

Saint Louis University in Missouri also follows a whole-foods philosophy—but it does provide some limited labeling of functional foods. Nutrition coordinator Amye O’Neal says the program uses a variety of symbols highlighting nutritional values of menu items, including tags such as vegetarian, vegan, whole grains, good source of calcium and antioxidants. In one of SLU’s dining halls, the symbols are displayed on digital menu screens so diners can seek out the corresponding nutritional items.

While neither operator has had requests for the ultimate in functional foods—Silicon Valley’s meal replacement product—O’Neal says she can see the potential allure for students, who are already short on time. “Students live on coffee,” she says. Ultimately, she says, the success of functional food will depend on marketing.
 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of California, Santa Cruz is converting its Cowell Coffee Shop into a “multi-service basic needs cafe” to aid students facing food insecurity .

The new cafe is being created through a partnership with dining services, the school’s center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and UCSC’s Cowell College. Due to open at the start of the fall semester, the lower part of the cafe will continue to be a study space for students (with free coffee and tea) and will also host nutrition and financial wellness programming.

Upstairs, the kitchen will be used as a...

Managing Your Business
quitting job

What prompts foodservice managers to clean out their offices and head out with a last paycheck? A new survey suggests the triggers may be changing with the times.

The canvass of 2,000 restaurant professionals, conducted by placement firm Gecko Hospitality, shows lifestyle issues abounding among the top 10 reasons for parting with a restaurant employer last year.

Here are the gender-specific lists:

Top 10 reasons female managers leave

1. Better opportunity

2. Unemployed

3. Relocation

4. Not satisfied

5. No growth

6. Long...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at Kalamazoo College last week participated in a vegan desserts class put on by the school’s dining services.

During the class, students learned how to make a vegan banana cake and vegan black bean brownies, according to the Kalamazoo, Mich., college’s website . They took tips from Sarah Ross, a baker who works in the dining services department.

Until now, not many dining services events have involved teaching skills, Tabitha Skornia, dining services marketing coordinator, told the site. However, the department is changing that to keep up with students’ evolving...

Industry News & Opinion

The Louisiana Senate is asking the state’s Education Department to create a task force to ensure every student gets a meal at school, KLFY reports.

The task force resolution was OKed after a bill that sought to end lunch shaming failed to pass the Senate Education Committee last month. State lawmakers say the bill, which was backed by the Louisiana House, failed to pass due to worries about districts losing money.

Members of the community, however, are upset that the resolution does not fully ban lunch shaming. A reporter at KLFY created a Facebook poll asking local...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code