3 snack trends K-12 operators should focus on

Photograph: Shutterstock

What do the kids want these days? It’s a question parents and school cafeteria operators have in common. Keeping up with the ever-changing tastes and trends of the K-12 crowd is daunting to say the least. What was cool, craved and desired last year could be on the outs this year.

Have no fear, though—current snacking trends should help operators deliver popular items that also meet USDA snack standards.

Healthy snacks on the upswing

Broader snacking trends indicate a trend toward healthier and better-for-you snacking. Among consumers who say their snacking habits are changing, 34% say they now snack on more healthy items than they did two years ago, according to Technomic’s2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. With K-12 diners being the children of millennial and Gen X parents, it stands to reason that if older consumers are snacking more healthfully, that same behavior may be passed down to their children, who will in turn be looking for those same kinds of foods at school.

Foodservice operators should be mindful to offer an array of familiar and exciting healthy snacks, such as fruit, smoothies, yogurt parfaits and more, to ensure that the snacks available are appealing to young palates.

Portability and convenience

Convenience and portability are two attributes that are important for busy consumers, including students. Technomic’s Snacking Occasion report, for instance, finds that 48% of consumers overall say portability is important when choosing a snack. The same could be said for younger diners, who may have to rush to get to class or to an after-school sports practice or club meeting. Grab-and-go fruit bowls are a quick and easy option that students can count on in a hurry. And prepared foods made with healthy ingredients, such as blueberry muffins, granola and fruit parfaits, fit the bill of being tasty, convenient and filling options.

Meeting requirements

K-12 operators have many requirements to keep track of when planning menus. Snacks, for instance, are required to be rich in whole grains; contain at least a quarter-cup of fruit or vegetables; have a fruit, vegetable, protein food or dairy product as the first ingredient; or contain 10% or more of the percent daily value of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D or calcium.

Meeting those requirements is easy with Dole Packaged Foods—and, available products fit perfectly in line with trends surrounding healthy and portability. For example, try menuing:

  • Dole Fruitocracy Squeezable Fruit Pouches - Portable and healthy, these are made with 100% all-natural fruit and no artificial sweeteners. Each pouch contains a half-cup of fruit, too, and the pouches are shelf, stable, too, making them a perfect on-the-go snack.
  • Dole Fruit Bowls® in 100% Fruit Juice - These grab-and-go bowls are perfectly portable—great for cafeteria service or on-the-go snacking. Students can grab Dole Fruit Bowls at lunch or take one and save it for later - ideal for those students who might have extracurricular activities.

These healthy, portable, popular snack choices that meet USDA standards are the kind of low maintenance items that can really benefit a K-12 foodservice operation looking to provide the right snack choices to students. Find out more about healthy snack options from Dole at

This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods

Want breaking news at your fingertips?

Click here or text FSD to 888-111 to receive text alerts from FoodService Director and get the news and insights that matter to your operation.