By Rieva Lesonsky
Why do the nation’s 20 million 18- to 22-year old college students matter to you? If you’re in the food or restaurant business, it’s because these students—now being exposed to new cuisines at college—are going to shape the food tastes of the nation as they get older. Packaged Facts and CCD Innovation recently published a study, Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, which looks at the Millennials’ food preferences.
The report identified four major needs college students want their food to meet (nutrition, flavorful food, comfort/indulgence, and speed/convenience), as well as seven culinary preferences that differ from prior generations:
- Profile 1: Dining Along the Meatless Spectrum – More students identify with the less-meat to meatless spectrum of dining. They range from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan and even raw diets.
- Profile 2: The Mighty Chickpea – Students are crazy for this inexpensive, versatile and protein-packed food, found in many ethnic cuisines.
- Profile 3: Nut Butters – Many of these students grew up without peanut butter thanks to so many of their peers being allergic to it. However, today college students are embracing nut butters of all kinds, including peanut butter and the more healthful almond butter.
- Profile 4: Fruit and Vegetable Discovery – New college students are discovering unfamiliar fruits and vegetables thanks to cafeteria salad bars and retail favorites like Trader Joe’s.
- Profile 5: Asian Love Affair – Younger Millennials have grown up eating global cuisine, and many continue the discovery in college. Dining halls are offering more ethnic foods, and nearby ethnic restaurants also give students the chance to try new foods.
- Profile 6: Italian & Mexican – When a college student under stress needs a little comfort, something familiar, warm and filling—that is, Italian and Mexican food—fills the bill.
- Profile 7: On-the-Go Fare – Students are busy, so they’re looking for foods that are “Easy to make.” “Portable.” “Eat quickly.” “Eat as I walk to class.”
How will these preferences affect your restaurant, food-service business or food manufacturing business in the years ahead? You’d better get ready.
Image by Flickr user Charlene Collins.Jamaica Images (Creative Commons)