Ten years ago Y-Pulse began tracking foodservice trends through the nation’s leading foodservice directors in the education segments to give food marketers insight on what would shape the tastes of tomorrow’s consumers, and this latest report identifies how young consumers tastes are setting the pace for tomorrow’s menus.

In K-12 schools, lunch has become a learning lab empowering young consumers with the knowledge they need to make mindful nutritious choices. Today’s school foodservice directors are serving up a lot more than breakfast and lunch; 96% consider teaching nutrition education to be an important part of their job. On college and university campuses foodservice directors are on the cutting edge of experimentation with new foods, new concepts and new delivery systems for some of the most demanding consumers in America.

Healthy By Design
There is still conversation about stealth health in many segments of the foodservice industry, but young consumers have had nutrition education and want to be empowered to make their own choices. The idea of hiding healthy ingredients is going by the wayside as full disclosure and allergen awareness take on greater importance.

There are more fruits and vegetables on the menu than ever before and healthy fats have found their place in a balanced diet. Even when it comes to snacking, millennial consumers want fresh and healthy snacks to feed their cravings on demand. Eighty-three percent considered healthfulness an important criterion for the snacks they chose. Today’s consumers want fresh, fast fuel for their bodies. Fresh homemade taste has become the new definition of quality for young consumers.

Wellness as a Way of Life
Wellness policies have been in place for many years in public schools and in a recent Y-Pulse study, 82% of colleges and universities stated that their campus has a wellness policy or program in place.  Of the other 18% that did not have a formal policy, 45% said a program was pending.

Successful wellness programs in colleges and universities take a holistic approach including health services, athletics, recreational sports, counseling, and residential life, in addition to foodservice.

Culinary Nutrition On Campus
There is a true collaboration among chefs and dietitians who are becoming a greater force in bringing healthy eating ideas to kids and young adults. Chefs are in the kitchen and not just to offer advice; they are fully engaged, understanding the realities of school foodservice and delivering on the promise of delicious, healthful meals.

Chefs are reinvigorating school kitchens as places to prepare fresh foods, training foodservice workers and pressing unused equipment into service while energizing the cooking process. Registered dietitians are a force on school and college campuses for much more than managing the nutritional integrity of menus; they provide nutrition education and 26% of college students report that an RD is available for personal consultation on their campus.

Cooking Is Back In Style
Fresh cooking on-site is returning to school kitchens. Operators are learning new cooking techniques rather than turning to heavily processed speed scratch ingredients to satisfy their customers.

A combi oven in every kitchen is the dream of school foodservice directors. When foodservice directors were asked if they could have one new piece of equipment what would it be; 72% noted a new item of cooking equipment and 37% of those identified a combi oven specifically.

Cooking is also back in style among young consumers who are often more skilled than their parents. Food television has captivated and enabled an entire generation of consumers and cooking classes and chef demonstrations on college campuses are well attended.

Technology Enabled Connections
In a Y-Pulse study, 95% of foodservice directors in college foodservice say they use social media to connect with their foodservice customers. Eighty-five percent say social media tools are very important or important for promoting foodservice venues.

Foodservice directors are also handling customer feedback in real time to continuously improve the relevance and satisfaction of their foodservice programs.

Campus dining apps are popping up everywhere as operators look to connect their offerings with student lifestyles and social media habits. These new apps allow students to track calories and evaluate menus across campus in real time.