Drive student satisfaction with non-dairy milks

almond milk pitcher

From WhiteWave Away From Home.

Offering non-dairy milks on campus is no longer outside the norm; students have come to expect it.

“It’s really become much more mainstream,” says Jeffrey Scott, director of dining services at Ithaca College.

And for good reason: Some 10% of college students say they have food allergies, and of that group, 21% report being allergic to dairy milk, according to Technomic’s recent College & University Consumer Trend Report. That’s the most-prevalent of all food allergens surveyed.

Beyond those with food allergies are growing numbers of vegan diners, flexitarians and others seeking to follow plant-based diets.

“Ithaca college began offering soy milk about a decade ago by special request,” Scott says. The school still menus soy milk, of course, but it’s been joined by vanilla soy milk, chocolate soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and lactose-free milk.

Students no longer need to make a special request for non-dairy milks. It’s offered in self-serve dispensers in residential dining, at coffee stations and in grab-and-go containers for retail sales. Scott says he used to know practically every student by name who requested non-dairy milk. Now that the products have merged so seamlessly with dairy beverages, there’s no need for anyone to make an effort to ask for non-dairy drinks.

“It has really blended in to be a staple of our menu,” he says. “I couldn’t tell you today the breakout because what’s awesome is folks don’t have to go out of their way to get non-dairy.”

“The school now goes through about 35 cases each week of the different non-dairy milks in dining halls,” Scott says. It’s also a popular choice in the catering program.

“It started to peak about three years ago,” he says. “It has stayed pretty steady since then.”

Still, there is plenty of room for colleges and universities to improve their non-dairy offerings. Less than half (41%) of students surveyed said their campus does a good job of providing options for special diets, according to Technomic data.

At Ithaca, which has 6,500 students—4,200 of whom are on a meal plan—the prevalence of non-dairy beverages dovetails with other allergen-free and special-diet dining options.

The school’s dining halls, which are managed by Sodexo, have featured a vegan dining station for the past 16 years. It attracts hundreds of diners each day for plant-based entrees, side dishes and a variety of non-dairy desserts.
Scott and his team pay attention to student surveys, social media engagement, on-site tabling and a student advisory committee to assess whether foodservice tweaks are needed. He has been pleased with the response to the school’s efforts to meet diverse dietary requests.

“It seems to be meeting the need very well,” Scott says.

Looking to expand your non-dairy offerings? WhiteWave Foods makes and sells a wide variety of plant-based beverages.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Hawaii public schools are serving locally sourced sweet potato pie in celebration of Thanksgiving and their harvest of the month program.

The menu item is being served this month at over 200 schools throughout the state and will use local Okinawan sweet potatoes . This is the first time the Hawaii-grown sweet potatoes will be served in the cafeterias.

The recipe for the dish was created by one of the district’s cafeteria managers and her staff.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at Lemon Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Va., were treated to a Greek-inspired potato salad from the cafeteria’s new salad bar this week.

The dish was served for the school’s Celebration of Potatoes event, which took place Thursday in partnership with the National Potato Council and United Fresh Start Foundation.

At the event, kindergarteners also learned about different types of potatoes and how and where they’re grown, as well as potato nutrition facts.

The salad bar was donated by the National Potato Council and United Fresh Start as part of the...

Ideas and Innovation
American Egg Board

Breakfast is self-service at Harvard University’s 12 undergrad residences, and the menu used to be limited to baked goods, fruit, hard-cooked eggs and other grab-and-go staples. But students started asking for enhanced breakfast offerings, says Crista Martin, director for strategic initiatives and communications for Harvard University Dining Services. After seeing a DIY scrambled egg station in action at Dartmouth College, Martin figured Harvard could do the same.

So last summer, she and her team piloted a similar hot breakfast station in one of the residences, or houses, as they...

Managing Your Business

In October, the unemployment rate hit its lowest point since the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it’s a number that is significantly affecting foodservice hiring.

Not only are directors and chefs having a tough time filling job s but they also can’t find enough skilled workers to execute the menu and provide good customer service. As operators continue to grapple with this problem, some are finding the solution lies in extensive cross-training.

Multitasking to stretch staff

“Every staff member is trained to multitask,” says Kory Samuels,...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code