This is a continuation of a previous post that tracks a dialogue between food marketers Jim Matorin and Lionel Binnie. Read the first part here.
In my research on what is current in C&U here are some points about what consumers (students) are looking for in the food offerings on colleges.
To answer, I’ll start off with these recent comments from Gene Kellog , a C&U foodservice pro who’s been in the industry for 30 plus years. Before Gene began ECS his consulting firm he was with Saga and Marriott. He had this to say in a recent interview:
In the present day, expectations of students continue to rise higher and higher. If the food isn’t really good, students will walk away, or worse still, tweet about it.
Many students, by the time they get to college, have tried just about everything; their tastes are often more sophisticated than the faculties’.
They have high expectations, from the food quality and variety, to its sustainability, to how it’s presented and the dining facilities.
What is wanted now are a big authentic flavors, more ever-changing variety, (African, Moroccan, Asian, vegan, etc.), also mixed with good old-fashioned comfort food like burgers and pizza. You don’t get points for only having new items unless the basics are also done well.
So, global variety, but also superbly done comfort food. In other research I’ve done, students are looking for food that is identifiable and traceable; sustainable or local.
You make a lot of good points, especially the reference about students today having more sophisticated palates thanks to what they have been exposed to eating-away-from-home at restaurants and travel. I also enjoyed reading Gene Kellog’s interview. He is spot on regarding student guests’ expectations — extremely high; food quality, as well as variety. You both validate the trends I read and discuss with C&U operators.
I apologize for being candid Lionel, but conversely what I witness live on campuses around the country is a totally different ball game. Millennials eat poorly; they are major league “grazers” constantly eating their food on the go. They enjoy portable food they can eat with one hand, while texting or working social platforms with their other hand given they are surgically attached to their smartphones. From what I observe, food is considered fuel for a majority of Millennials. Some fuel is healthy, some fuel not so healthy like their favorite comfort food you addressed — hamburgers and pizza. Have you ever searched hamburgers or pizza on Instagram? Not so healthy! Search vegan and you would be amazed how unhealthy some of their choices actually are.
Don’t apologize- we Brits love candid (if you’re polite of course!). Nuff said.
Here are a couple of research-based pointers to bring together the way college age consumers are looking for healthier, sustainable AND indulgence — burgers and pizza.
The first is from Erik Medina of The Future’s Company, a consumer marketing group; at a recent talk he presented 4 trends summarizing what college age consumers are looking for; Value, Convenience, Betterment and Experiences. Yeah, I know — sounds fuzzy. But I think the ‘betterment’ concept is insightful; centennials are looking for healthier foods plus enjoyment. Good-for-you is broadened to include fun, not austere self-deprivation. Betterment.
And a recent study by the International Deli, Dairy and Bakery Association (IDDBA), reaches the same conclusion; ‘Millennials define wellness as more than just health; wellness is holistic, an evolution that includes indulgence.’
Younger consumers are looking for balance. It’s not just about cringe-worthy health-food — freshness, variety and fun are how millennials interpret healthier. Betterment and balance. I like it.
Betterment and balance; B&B. It has a ring to it. I know the term is already taken.
You reference some reliable sources, but here is one for you. Technomic’s recent College & University Consumer Trend Report debunked some popular student trends:
- Communal tables, created for an eating experience have slipped in their appeal; 38% down from 47% in 2015.
- DYI — Operators were jumping on the customization (do-it-yourself) stations, but now are witnessing a decline in popularity; 51% down from 57% in 2015.
- Mashups — Unique flavors or combinations, once popular, now rank low among students; conversely, taste and freshness are the leading attributes.
My spin? College students are out of the comfort zone of their homes (a.k.a. wombs) for the first time, therefore most are formulating their own eating habits. They are unpredictable, thus all over the map as it relates to the food they are consuming or should I say inhaling if you ever watch how they eat. Regardless of the trends, as a marketing geek, I think the C&U segment is a great place for a manufacturer of food products, especially branded products, to build its future consumer franchise, the topic for a future discussion.