Kids these days…are tomorrow’s food trendsetters.
There are 20 million college students in the U.S., most in their teens and early 20’s.
They’re young, impressionable, and eating Thai food for the first time.
Minds are expanding, horizons are broadening, and not just in the classroom.
Today’s college cafeterias are serving up globally-influenced dishes, there’s always cheap, ethnic food close by the campus, and student populations are increasingly diverse. Campuses incubate political awareness and activism, and the politics of our food system are among the most immediate and accessible. A college can be big and urban or tiny and rural, it makes no difference—by winter break, every freshman knows tahini is a sauce and panini is a sandwich.
Students develop new eating habits and assert their culinary preferences during the college years, and these practices and penchants will stay with them long after graduation. The food industry is paying attention. It recognizes that these food choices are developing in ways that are distinct from previous generations, and the impact will be felt for decades to come. The food industry strategists at CCD Innovations have extensively studied this cohort, and they outline seven distinct profiles in the Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report.
- Profile 1: The meatless spectrum– 21% of students identify with the less-meat to meat-less diet, ranging from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan.
- Profile 2: The chickpea lovers– Students are crazy for this inexpensive and protein-packed food in any of its many guises.
- Profile 3: Nut butters– They spent their early, allergy-prone years in nut-free classrooms and cafeterias, and are now coming to appreciate peanut butter, almond butter, and the cocoa and hazelnut combination of Nutella.
- Profile 4: Consider the brussels sprout– They’re giving up childhood prejudices and delving deeply into the world of fruits and vegetables.
- Profile 5: Not just chicken chow mein– Today’s students are looking beyond the Americanized Asian foods of their hometowns and exploring Korean, Thai, Malaysian, and Indian cuisines.
- Profile 6: The new comfort foods– When final exams have students frazzled and stressed, campus dining services know it’s time to roll out the lasagne, enchiladas, and other filling, familiar Italian and Mexican classics.
- Profile 7: Get it to go– The grab-and-go station has become a staple of campus dining. Students want something quick, portable, and easy to eat as they walk to class.