What millennials want: Clean labels

millennial food trends foodservice

From T. Marzetti® Foodservice.

Their dorm rooms might be messy, but today’s college students want dining halls to clean up and offer less-processed, healthier options.

Millennials are leading the booming “free-from” foods trend. Of the participants in a recent Mintel group study, 60% of millennials said they’re concerned about transparency and clean ingredients in the food they eat. Many of them are currently in college, where they are making their own food decisions for the first time, and millennial preferences are clear: fresh ingredients, healthy options and clean labels—even if that means a higher price tag.

Embrace special diets and sustainability

Reports from three industry sources—Foodservice Director Magazine, Technomic and Food Newsfeed—all state that special diets are among the top trends in college and university foodservice for 2017. This includes allergy-conscious diets, including gluten-free and nut-free, personal diet considerations such as vegan and vegetarian menus and religious considerations such as kosher offerings.

Other top college and university food service trends, as identified by Food Newsfeed, center on a sustainability theme. Trends such as sourcing ingredients locally, taking a “farm-to-college” approach to menus, incorporating produce from campus gardens and using clean-label ingredients wherever possible are great ways to stay current.

College kids expect choices

Regardless of any rumors or stereotypes about millennials, one thing is true—the current higher education crowd wants more input about what they eat than their parents and grandparents did.

Customizable offerings such as salad bars, taco bars and grain bowl bars (among other creative build-your-own options) are an easy way to add more choices for collegiate millennials. Try incorporating clean label offerings in customizable dining. It’s a cost-effective way to get started with the clean label trend, and it’s simple: be discerning about the ingredients in your toppings and dressings (items that are most often loaded with synthetic ingredients) to capitalize on already fresh and healthy vegetables and greens.

Sensational marketing strategies: sustainable, clean label

Often, simply knowing what millennials want is just part of the equation. Operators can also show students how sustainability and clean-label trends are being implemented dining halls with these marketing tips:

  1. College and university foodservice social media accounts are a great way to interact with students, get the word out, poll for preferences and raise awareness around sustainable and clean label offerings.
  2. Place signage like posters and table tents in and around dining halls to build extra hype around “free-from” and sustainable foods. 
  3. Make time to educate staff. Ensure chefs and dining hall staff are knowledgeable about clean label options and can engage with—and answer—any student questions.
  4. Take it a step further: Buy some ingredients from local farmers or use campus gardens to source seasonal produce and create buzz around on-trend foodservice program throughout your community.

Start “cleaning up” with easy steps

Not sure where to get started with the clean label trend? T. Marzetti® Foodservice can help. Salad bars are a great place to introduce clean label options and our 32 oz. bottles of delicious clean label dressing fit the bill (not to mention our gallon jugs that equip you to handle any back-of-house dressing application). Gluten-free with no added MSG, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, preservatives or artificial flavors, simple, fresh, on-trend salads have never been easier than with Marzetti® Simply Dressed® Dressings.

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