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The Rise of Snacking on Campus



Americans’ eating patterns and behaviors continue to evolve, but the rise in snacking is probably no place more apparent than on college campuses, considering the age demographic of students and their busy, active lifestyle. According to the NPD Group, 18-24 year olds—also known as young millennials—snack more than any other adult age group and are likely to snack instead of eating breakfast or lunch. Mintel’s 2014 “Snacking Motivations and Attitudes” study reports show that one-quarter of millennials enjoy four or more snacks per day. When it comes to college students, snacks can center on health, happiness, and hunger. Some students prefer mini-meals throughout the day while others want something that tastes great while providing some health benefit. Others snack simply because it makes them feel happy, reminding them of good times or home. Millennials are also increasingly eating more pre-portioned snacks for reasons including health and portability, underscoring the need for balanced snacks that work well on-the-go. Together, all of this means that campus foodservice professionals should offer a variety of snacking options to both fuel students through busy days and satisfy cravings during stressful times. As interest in snacks continues to grow among millennials, foodservice operations can craft menus, promotions, and options that satisfy this craving for flavor, convenience, health, and portability.

How to Maximize the Snack Attack College and university foodservice can make the most of this trend with some snack-specific strategies. The following tips can bolster revenue throughout the day. • Variety is the spice of snack time. Since so many millennials are interested in and open to trying new foods, it’s key to offer variety in terms of flavors, portion sizes, locations, and service options. Consider snack centered food trucks, yogurt bars, food, and packaging that is easily transportable, and rotating items that celebrate a specific theme, ethnicity, or holiday.

Vincelli’s staff has been using more picnic-sized packaging in response to students who eat on-the-go. The packaging allows for students to customize mini meals and also caters to those students who are planning ahead.

“We were surprised when there was demand for items like sushi and dim sum at breakfast but then realized that

1. NPD Historical NET Data 2 Years ending May 2014

students were buying items to eat later in the day,” said Vincelli. • Watch the clock. Snacking behavior changes across the day so it important to look across dayparts as separate snacking occasions and tailor menus to meet these distinct needs.

In the morning and afternoon, snackers have the best intentions and appreciate food that is healthy and provides fuel, such as fruit, yogurt, smoothies, granola bars, and salty snacks. As the day goes on, evening snacks are more about craving, relaxation, and connection – satisfying the sweet tooth. Likewise, as millennials may be less likely to sit down for breakfast or lunch, it’s important to offer on-the-go snack options that can serve as a healthy, easy replacement for a sit-down meal. Again, yogurt, granola bars and fruit can all be satisfying options.

• On the go, go, go. Portability is a huge benefit for college students who are always looking for quick and easy snacking solutions. Packaging must be easy to handle and the product must create little mess, no matter where it’s eaten on campus. Since students are sitting down to fewer meals, operators should continue to seek on-the-go options that can be purchased and consumed while walking between classes and snacks that can survive in a backpack all day for later consumption.

Grab-and-go snack kiosks can make portability even easier. While just over half of all adults rate portability as an important snack attribute, Mintel reports that 65 percent of millennials value the ability to grab and go. Think less fuss, less mess and less stress for students .

• Ensure that snacks can be purchased on the student meal plan while including more QSR-style options. For students, it’s all about convenience. Making snacking— and meal time in general—easier will encourage more regular visits and purchases. At the University of Richmond, students have a myriad of options with equal access to everything available to them. “We offer a very flexible meal plan to accommodate our students,” said Vincelli.

“Students can use their dining dollars in any increment at any operation whether it is a sit-down or carryout meal in our main dining hall, grab-and-go items from any of our retail operations, or snacks and other grocery items from our on-campus convenience stores.”

2. Mintel “Snacking motivations and Attitudes US” April 2015

3. Mintel “Food Packaging Trends US” July 2014

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