As the fall semester shifts into gear, trends both new and familiar have begun to creep onto menus. From plant-based fare to nostalgic foods, Chartwells Higher Education’s culinary team shares the top food trends to look out for.
1. Increasing demand for plant-based meat and seafood
Diners' appetite for plant-based foods seems to be growing, with plant-based seafood becoming a breakout star. The plant-based seafood market is estimated to reach $1.3 billion by 2031, according to data from Allied Market Research cited by Chartwells.
2. Functional foods become a staple
Foods with physiological benefits, such as improved mood regulation and better sleep, focus and energy, are also making their way onto menus. Ingredients like oat bran fiber, soy protein and fish oil fatty acids have a place in many diners' wellness routines. The University of Nevada at Reno, for instance, menus signature functional menu items, such as heart-healthy yogurt bars and mental clarity green tea.
3. Nostalgic items make waves
Nostalgic foods seem to be taking over as consumers look to reminisce on the past. This trend has taken the restaurant industry by storm, particularly through recent marketing efforts from chains. But nostalgic foods have found their way to college dining as well, with a spotlight on retro candy flavors, fruity cereals and ice cream sandwiches. The University of Minnesota tapped into this trend with its Retro Remix Night, which featured an '80s and '90s inspired menu.
4. Fermented drinks and gut health in focus
Consumers appear to be more focused on digestive health, which has piqued interest in fermented drinks like kombucha and probiotic waters, Chartwells noted. Its team predicts these beverages will continue to gain popularity.
5. 'Chaos cuisine' comes to the fore
Chaos cooking, or the method of combining classic recipes or cuisines, is another trend diners might see on campus this year. Chartwells, for instance, offers a variety of “smashup” recipes, including wonton nacho bowls with orange chicken and vegetables, and spicy street corn macaroni and cheese.