Grabbing health to go

Portable foods get pumped up as snacking turns into a meal occasion.

salad shaker

The partitioned, compostable cups that hold breakfast yogurt parfaits sparked healthy grab-and-go ideas throughout the day at University of Texas at Austin. Assembled in-house, whole-grain Salad Shakers, launched in October, are sold at UT's retail outlets. Kitchen staff layers a rotating selection of cooked grains (farro, barley, ruby rice or five-grain rice blend), kalamata olives, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and torn basil in a similar container; a separate lid holds the housemade salad dressing. Building on that shaker’s popularity, UT introduced Edamame Shakers in January.

“Today’s students don’t make time for sound eating habits,” says Lindsay Wilson, registered dietitian at UT. “With healthier grab-and-go foods, they can eat between classes, while socializing, studying, etc.” 

Lunchtime is the busiest meal period for purchase of the heartier salad shakers ($3.99), with many students buying two and storing one in their dorm room’s mini fridge to snack on later, says Wilson. Students purchase the Edamame Shakers ($3.29)— filled with protein-rich edamame and topped with a partitioned lid holding seasonings such as kosher salt, Cajun spices or dried chilies—as more of a snack.

The original salad shaker was so popular that four now are in UT’s regular grab-n-go rotation; the edamame version was tested for a month and will roll out permanently in September. “We have to make sure the kitchen can handle it,” says Director of Food Service Rene Rodriguez. “Any time you add special containers and more prep, it adds extra production time.”

The B&I segment also has expanded grab-and-go snack options to meet customer demand for healthier anytime eating. “We provide snack boxes in our cafe and catering services that include housemade hummus and pita chips along with carrots, broccoli, tomato and cucumber.

Even more innovative offerings include housemade almond and sunflower seed butter,” says Amy Lucas, registered dietitian and wellness coordinator for Eurest at Chevron’s corporate locations in California, Texas and Louisiana. “I’m seeing people buying snack foods that I don’t think they would have considered buying five or 10 years ago.”

Guests also are interested in combining multiple snack selections into meals. “Eurest chefs have personally experienced what trend watchers have observed: Increasingly, more diners are eating four or five small meals each day rather than three,” says Mike Fiato, vice president of consumer experience for the contract feeder. “In B&I, we began seeing grazing with our millennial diners, but snack-size meals that can be eaten on the go also are becoming popular with Gen X and baby boomers.” 

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