College food habits could set the stage for lifetime preferences: Report

- Last updated on GMT

College food habits could set the stage for lifetime preferences
Food habits and preferences developed at college will continue well after graduation, potentially impacting the food industry for decades, says a new report that highlights current college student food trends.

Market research organization Packaged Facts has once again turned its attention to food trends driven by Millennials – also dubbed ‘Generation Y’ – but this time it has collaborated with San Francisco-based food and beverage innovation agency CCD Innovation to hone in on the college-aged section of the demographic – a group of nearly 20 million 18- to 20-year-old students nationwide.

College students tend to focus on speed and convenience in their food choices, while also looking for nutrition, flavor, comfort, according to the co-published “Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report”.​ The market researchers carried out online surveys with college students in late 2011 and spring 2012 in an effort to understand the food preferences and habits that differentiate this group from other generations.

CEO of CCD Innovation Kimberley Egan said: “The college environment, with its campus food courts, self-serve bars, and convenience stores along with plenty of nearby cheap global eats, offers students an exceptional opportunity to experience new foods, flavor profiles and eating styles…The food industry will need to respond to these adventurous consumers as they leave campus and start earning their own paychecks.”

Among well-established student trends – such as embracing vegetarian and vegan diets, and finding myriad ways to consume cheap, protein-packed chickpeas and nut butters – is a strong theme of culinary discovery.

The report credits innovative campus foodservice, global cuisine restaurants, and the influence of new acquaintances with introducing college students to new fruits and vegetables, often prepared in unfamiliar ways. Students increasingly are also embracing Asian food, driven by flavor, vegetarian options, and customization.

However, when college students crave familiar comfort foods, Italian and Mexican foods win out, the report said.

Related topics: Markets, Trendspotter

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