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How to expand health-halo offerings while staying on-trend

Photograph: Shutterstock

Dining halls in college cafeterias have come a long way in the last several years, and it’s not hard to see why: College and university students are more in tune than ever with health, sustainability and culinary trends, and they want high-quality food from operations that can back up their claims of how it was sourced, raised and prepared. Higher-education foodservice operators now have a big opportunity to increase sales by catering to students that expect both healthy and tasty meal options.

Research backs this up: More than 30% of students say that higher-quality food would encourage them to purchase a meal plan, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report, while 28% say that an emphasis on healthy food and beverage choices would encourage them to purchase. Additionally, 44% of students say that they think it’s important that schools are transparent about how ingredients are sourced, and nearly 70% say they are more likely to purchase items that are natural.

College and university foodservice operators can meet students’ demands by working with elevated products that fit the right criteria. This can include options such as Tyson® Precision Cooked™ All Natural* Chicken which utilizes the French Sous Vide style of cooking, resulting in a juicy, tender piece of poultry every time. It has a neutral, versatile flavor profile and is perfect for a range of dishes. The fully cooked chicken—which comes in pre-portioned breast, thigh and ready-to-pull thigh options—can fit into the top trends and desires of today’s college students.

Ethnic eats

Between trending cuisines in the restaurant world and new flavors permeating every aspect of foodservice, college students are looking for a variety of global flavors in their meals. All-natural chicken fits in a number of those dishes, whether it’s a Build-Your-Own Taco Platter, Black Tea Smoked Chicken Breast or Thai Lettuce WrapsOffering unique condiments, such as gochujang barbecue sauce, harissa aioli or sesame-ginger glaze, will also amp up the flavor in other dishes.

Build-your-own bowls and salads

Foodservice operators can also offer students the opportunity to customize bowl meals, which are one of the hottest trends in foodservice. The neutral flavor of chicken breasts and thighs fits into a variety of bowl options, from grains to rice to pasta, and is perfect for taking on any number of toppings, dressings or sauces. Complement the high-quality protein with a number of vegetables, sauces and other toppings for a surefire hit on the line.

Additionally, putting all-natural chicken thighs and breast portions on a salad bar can draw in students that might otherwise overlook the line of greens. Because it’s fully cooked and doesn’t require any extra equipment, prepared chicken makes prepping a breeze for build-your-own meals.

Clean-label options

Tyson® Precision Cooked™ All Natural* Chicken that is All Natural*, made with No Antibiotics Ever and is farm-raised in the U.S. is a great complement to other sustainable practices foodservice programs have already implemented such as waste-reduction or organic produce sourcing. It also caters to the approximately 60% of students who report that they’re more likely to purchase natural, sustainable or humanely raised food items, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report.

Offering healthy, delicious options doesn’t mean limiting the selection to plain, steamed veggies and grilled chicken. Instead, operators can incorporate global flavors, customization and clean-label health halos to draw in more student diners.

*Minimally processed, no artificial ingredients

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc.

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