On-the-go college diners crave grab-and-go options

on the go food

College and university students who are juggling classes, friends and often jobs epitomize the grab-and-go consumer. Their schedules can be haphazard and unpredictable. Their meals, likewise, need to be flexible. Noncommercial foodservice operators hoping to appeal to students have to find the right combination of convenience and craveability to hit the mark.

The idea of three sit-down, square meals a day doesn’t make sense to a student looking for a quick snack to tide them over. According to Technomic’s 2018Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, 80% of consumers snack at least once a day between meals, and 57% say they do so at least twice a day.

On-the-go eats

The same report finds that snacking is on the rise for 18- to 24-year-olds, specifically. The report notes that 40% of this age group say they are snacking more frequently now than they were two years ago. The transition to college likely factors into that trend. Additionally, nine out of 10 consumers pick up a premade meal at least once a month, according to Datassential Grab-and-Go Snapshots.

Grab-and-go snack spots can be a great way to appeal to college students looking to grab a protein bar or other quick snack or meal before heading off to class. According to Datassential, grab-and-go options in restaurants grew 67.1% between 2013 and 2014. Even so, though, penetration is only 0.4%, which means there’s ample opportunity for growth in grab-and-go.

Smaller, quick entrees and early dinner options are also great ways to cater to the flexible schedule needs of students. Foodservice operators can offer single-serving, ready-to-grab items like chicken pot pies, pizza puffs and wraps to provide the convenience students are looking for.

Portability is crucial

When it comes to grab-and-go, the “go” matters a lot. If someone is grabbing something to eat as they run across campus, they don’t want it to fall apart as they make their way across campus. And data confirms that—Technomic’s Snacking Occasion report finds that 48% of consumers cite portability as a driver of purchasing decisions.

University and college foodservice operators can offer items that can easily be eaten on-the-go, or at least carried to a class where it can be quietly eaten during class. Convenience also plays into meal decisions. Menu items such as Stouffer’s® Chicken Pot Pies are ready to go with on-the-go packaging and only need to be picked up and paid for. They’re a good example of a quick entree that meets consumer craving and convenience needs. Packaging is key, here, too. For instance, single-serving packages like those that Chicken Pot Pies come in offer consumers the convenience they’re after while protecting their meal until they’re ready to eat it.

Don’t sacrifice taste

But portability only goes so far. It’s an important factor, but taste matters, too. In fact, 81% of consumers say flavor and taste is a driver for snack purchases, according to Technomic’s Snacking Occasion report. Taste and mobility is a winning combination for foodservice operators who want to appeal to the younger grab-and-go crowd.

Consumers tend to perceive items as being tastier when they are described as “homemade” or “housemade.” Technomic’s 2018 Health Eating Consumer Trend Report found that this was the case for 67% of consumers. Comfort food such as Stouffer’s Chicken Pot Pies sit in this wheelhouse. These pies deliver on convenience, portability and taste, all while evoking feelings of homemade dinners for students who might be a bit homesick. Made with no artificial flavors or artificial colors (added colors from natural sources), these pies are also ideal for the better-for-you crowd—perfect for the college student watching what they eat.

This post is sponsored by Stouffer’s®