Feeding campus cravings

From Blue Bunny.

Demand for food, beverage and sundries is brisk day and night at America’s colleges and universities. That explains the growing prominence of campus convenience stores with a broad product mix.

Unlike the limited campus outlets of the past that dealt in soft drinks, bags of chips and tubes of toothpaste, leading c-stores today typically offer a more elaborate selection of food, ranging from grab-and-go sandwiches and salads to fully prepared meals. This is in addition to other staples of student life like snacks, beverages, candy, ice cream novelties and personal care items.

Convenience partly explains why c-stores are popular with students today, says Cynthia Lategan, senior executive chef at 25,000-student Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colo., but there’s more to the story.

“It also has a lot to do with the fact that they get tired of eating in the dining halls all the time,” says Lategan. “This allows them to bring food back to their rooms or to their study groups or eat outside under the trees.”

At Colorado State, the Ram’s Horn Express and Durrell Express c-stores offer a bundled meal called “Main plus 3,” which consists of a main dish and three side items. Typical mains are pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches, packaged entrée salads and deli sandwiches. Sides include beverages, ice cream novelties, chips, cookies, snacks, fruit and side salads.

“Grab-and-go food is huge,” says Lategan. “Students just love to go in there on a Friday afternoon before going on a trip to stock up on deli sandwiches, snacks and beverages.”

All told, ice cream novelties account for about 20 percent of the desserts ordered as sides with Main Plus 3. “They hold their own,” Lategan says, versus competing treats like candy and cookies. The most popular choices are ice cream sandwiches, fudge bars and vanilla ice cream-orange sherbet bars.

Another school catering to the student demand for quick, convenient food is Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Campus dining options include several outlets that combine aspects of both restaurants and c-stores, satisfying both eat-in and take-out customers.

For instance, at Out of Bounds Market and Grille, the offerings range from hot sandwiches, burgers and pizza to packaged beverages, sandwiches, salads, snacks, groceries and ice cream. The Tom John Food Shop likewise is known for hot sandwiches, but it also has a grocery area with grab-and-go salads, fruit cups, snacks, frozen entrees and ice cream.

When it comes to frozen treats, such outlets carry at least 20 kinds of Blue Bunny ice cream novelties as well as ice cream pints and cups, reports Elizabeth Poore, assistant director of operations for Ball State Dining at the 22,000-student university.

“We do well with ice cream all year round,” says Poore. “It’s a dessert, it’s a snack, it’s whatever you want it to be. It’s just a good thing to grab and go with.”

The best-selling novelty is the Blue Bunny Big Bopper ice cream sandwich, which has vanilla ice cream nestled between two chocolate chip cookies. The Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar is in second place. The top ice cream flavor is Fudge Brownie, followed by Cookie Dough and Birthday Party. The latter is white cake-flavored ice cream with confetti-shaped candy pieces and a blue frosting ribbon.

For students who are sharing an ice cream treat, or for those who feel indulgent, Blue Bunny ice cream pints are on sale in assorted flavors. For other snackers, Blue Bunny Personals,5.5-ounce cups of premium ice cream with a spoon under the lid, are just the right portion size.

“Sometimes you want a little something sweet, but not too much,” says Poore. “I think the girls here especially like that.”

For more information about Blue Bunny ice cream novelties, visit www.bluebunny.com/foodservice or call 800-807-8221.