Get creative to fuel the snacking generation

snack options

From TABASCO® Foodservice.

Today’s college students range from Gen Zers to millennials, but they might as well be called the snacking generation.

With their nonstop schedules and growing desire for healthy, portable options, college and university students demand virtually round-the-clock snacks.

Beefing up snack options just might translate to increased dining participation. Some 22% of students said they would purchase a meal plan if their school offered more grab-and-go choices and 20% would spring for a meal plan if there were more late-night snacking options, according to Technomic’s recent College & University Consumer Trend Report.

“Their schedules are crazy,” says Ingrid Bushwack, director of dining services at Connecticut College. “They’re just packing so much in.”

At Connecticut College, about 98% of the school’s 1,900 students are on the full, unlimited meal plan, which means they often drop in to the dining halls multiple times each day for a quick snack.

“Snacking can go in any direction you want it to go,” Bushwack says. “We always have whole, fresh fruit out. If someone wants to be healthy, that’s something they can grab. We have cookies, bars and muffins. And we do ice cream novelties.”

At Sunday night dinner, the school offers a popular sundae bar where students can top ice cream with an assortment of add-ons. The sundaes can then be packaged and taken to-go.

The school’s retail snack shop features more upscale snacking options, such as cake by the slice and chocolate-covered dried fruit.

Snack options at Skidmore College got a boost about 18 months ago when school officials happened upon a peanut-grinding machine at a trade show. Now, the school sells fresh-ground peanut butter in small mason jars, available in regular, honey-roasted and chocolate. The super-fresh PB also gets packed into to-go cups with pretzels or celery sticks. Dining halls are peanut-free so the peanut butter only is available for retail sale.

“We got rid of all the Skippy and the Jif,” says Mark Miller, the school’s director of dining services. “We grind it multiple times per week.”

He adds, “Kids are just more health-conscious nowadays. They want to know where their food came from, how it was grown, what’s in it. When you can offer a healthy snack, it’s usually a winner.”

Grab-and-go snack boxes are popular at the District Market retail operation at the University of Washington in Seattle.

And at Ithaca College, school officials have discovered many ways to cater to students’ desire for locally produced snack foods. An area bakery stocks dining halls and retail locations with fresh bagels, muffins and breads. Another Ithaca, NY-based bakery produces popular macaroons. Students like to grab apples from area farms, as well as New York-made Chobani yogurt cups and ice cream from a nearby dairy.

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