How to attract more grab-and-go sales on campus

smoothie to-go

From Island Oasis.

With consumers prioritizing convenience and health, it’s not surprising that menu items that are easy to take on-the-go—as well as better-for-you—remain popular at foodservice locations. As consumers continue to seek out these healthier options, foodservice directors who offer these options can see a boost in business: 32% of consumers say that more healthy food and beverage options would encourage them to purchase more meals on campus, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report.

Here are some tips on what to stock to keep consumers happy.

Grab-and-go foods

According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report, about a third of students say that more grab-and-go options would encourage them to sign up for a meal plan. This may be because many students have a limited amount of time to eat between classes, work and activities, and therefore need a fast option that they can take with them, perhaps to eat later.

Grab-and-go meals and snacks could include ready-made sandwiches and wraps, cut vegetables with a hummus dip, crackers and cheese, protein bars, salads and more. Along with grab-and-go options, 24% of consumers say that more portable and handheld options would encourage them to enroll in a campus meal plan, so grab-and-go options such as these fit that need perfectly.

Protein on the go

Another better-for-you trend on college campuses is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a $3.6B retail category, with 67% of sales dollars coming from non-fat sales, according to NPD data. In fact, yogurt is the preferred breakfast for 26% of students, according to Technomic’s College & University report, while 33% of consumers overall purchase it as a snack at least occasionally, according to Technomic’s 2016 Snacking Occasion report.  With numbers like these, it’s easy to see why offering Greek yogurt is important—the trend toward high-protein foods is right in line with Greek yogurt’s nutritional profile. Joey Torkelson, Beverage Mixologist & Applications Manager, Kerry Foods, says, “Greek yogurt offers high protein with low fat and sugars. This lifestyle is being adopted across the board, especially with the new trend toward the Ketosis way of eating—basically lowering carbs and sugars while offering a balanced flavor profile.”

Offering a variety of flavors or toppings for Greek yogurt, as well as different options such as low-fat or fat-free yogurt, help to ensure that consumers can all find the type of yogurt they prefer most.


Smoothies are another great offering for consumers who are looking for quick meals that are also healthy. Best of all, smoothies can be customized to one’s personal preferences—don’t like blueberries? Leave them out. Want more protein? Use Greek yogurt instead of traditional yogurt. Avoiding added sugar? Use agave nectar or stevia, or leave sweeteners out altogether.

Torkelson says, “With the rise in awareness regarding sugar consumption, I’m seeing an exceedingly increased interest in Greek yogurt-based smoothies. Why? College kids’ flavor preferences are switching to a more tart style—the rise in sour beers and the like can further confirm this fact.”

Smoothies are popular all day long, too—Technomic’s College & University report finds that about one in five students prefer them as their beverage during breakfast, lunch and dinner, while 26% say they prefer a smoothie when they want a snack. To keep up with this trend, operators are innovating with smoothie formats, including adding smoothie bowls to menus. These often-Instagrammable creations provide the same delicious nutrition that smoothies do, in a whole new form.

To remain competitive and capture sales from these consumers, operators should offer these high-protein meals and snacks and continue paying attention to convenience and portability, as well.

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