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College-Age Millennials Eat Along Meatless Spectrum

NEW YORK — College-age Millennials will seek comfort in globally inspired foods that are portable and nutrient dense, even after graduation, according to Kara Nielsen, a trendologist with food and beverage product development company CCD Innovation.

“Gen Ys are coming out of college and are going to continue to seek the foods that meet their needs as busy flavor-craving people with an understanding of nutrition,” she said at the Fancy Food Show Monday during the session “From Cafeteria to Market: How Campus Millennials Shape Culinary Trends of Tomorrow.”


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CCD asked students on four Midwestern and West Coast campuses about their food preferences, habit changes since arriving on campus, food cravings, go-to foods for each day part, knowledge and interest in food trends, and to design their on-the-go dream meal.

Many respondents are dining along the meatless spectrum and practicing vegetarian, vegan, raw and flexitarian diets, some for the first time.

“I have been introduced to a lot more vegetables and meatless dishes because my roommate is vegetarian and wants me to try her foods,” said one respondent.

Campus dining halls, with their innovative and contemporary menus, are also exposing students to a range of food. Northwestern University serves veggie cutlets with Marsala sauce, BBQ tempeh sandwiches, carrot fries and zucchini chips.

A willingness to try fruits and vegetables not served at home is also fueling the trend. “I just like vegetables more than I thought I did. Fruits and vegetables are like nature’s candy. They taste great, they don’t make me feel gross if I eat too much, and they’re good for you,” noted a respondent.

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Fresh salad with beets, avocados and veggie dishes with eggplants, are among their favorites. Members of the demographic are also fans of the Middle Eastern staple chickpeas. “The mighty chickpea is inexpensive, versatile, packed with protein and fueling students in all kinds of ways,” said Nielsen. There are hummus dips, falafel sandwiches, Indian and Middle Eastern stews and other options.

Nut butters are also rounding out meatless diets, said students who were asked about their go-to snack. “Peanut butter, banana & honey on toast. It came recommended, was delicious and healthy,” said one student. Another noshes on “A rice cake with almond butter, plain yogurt and sliced bananas.”

Younger members of Gen Y were also asked about their on-the-go dream meal. “Grown-up Lunchables with pita, hummus, carrot sticks, fruit-veg juice, cookies,” and “Lunch in a bottle — filling, fast and cheap,” were among the responses.

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