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Published 10.06.2017

How Gen Z Is Influencing College and University Foodservice Programs

Today’s college and university students have high expectations when it comes to their food. From locally sourced and organic ingredients to dietary restrictions to the growing demand for convenience,1 C&U foodservice directors have their work cut out for them. While many foodservice operators have grown accustomed to the demands of millennials, they are still learning what drives Generation Z dining behaviors.

With over 74 million young people, Gen Z makes up almost one-quarter of the U.S. population.2 They are preteens and teens ages ten through 21, born after 1995. By 2020 nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population will be Generation Z.3

Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse population group in American history.4 Since birth, Gen Z has been exposed to global food influences and therefore ethnic ingredients and flavors have become prominent in their food preferences.4

They expect conveniences like delivery, and they are predicted to continue favoring quick and nutritious on-the-go bites instead of large sit-down meals.4 They’re also seeking social eating venues and occasions where they can hang out with friends.5

Gen Zers have grown up with access to a diverse choice of quick and healthy food purveyors that menu clean label items, and they aren’t willing to settle. They want transparency in their food, and they’re willing to pay for it.4 They know exactly what they want and are not willing to compromise on their values and beliefs when spending their money. According to Datassential, 65% of today’s students want healthy options, 59% want seasonal ingredients and 49% want hormone-free protein.1 Gen Z identifies fresh, natural and hormone-free as the top food traits for which they would pay more.6 They care about organic food more than any other age group.4 Not surprisingly, studies show more than half of Generation Z perceives organic to be healthier and actually taste better.3

Perdue Foodservice understands the importance of serving clean label items with simple, recognizable ingredients to satisfy students’ needs, which is why C&U foodservice directors can feel confident turning to Perdue to meet student protein demand. PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® adheres to strict guidelines of food integrity, providing operators with a selection of clean label, no-antibiotics-ever, 100% vegetarian fed chicken and turkey products. This portfolio of wholesome proteins not only differentiates operators by elevating menu offerings; it also meets students’ ever-growing demand for simple, recognizable ingredients. And for colleges looking to elevate their offerings even further, PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® USDA Certified Organic chicken is available nationwide.*

NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER and 100% vegetarian fed protein options in convenient formats will continue to drive students’ decisions on where to dine. C&U foodservice operations have already started to revamp their programs to keep up with student demand and will need to evolve to be successful.

*HARVESTLAND® Organic Frozen Chicken available nationwide; HARVESTLAND® Organic Fresh Chicken available in limited markets

1 Datassential, The Keynote Report: Colleges & Universities, January 2016

2 Hartman Group, New Kids on the Block: First Look at Gen Z, 3/29/2016

3 Organic Produce Network, Now That We Understand Millennials: Generation Z and Organic Produce, 4/27/17

4 Miller, Jenna, 3 Ways Gen Z Will Impact the Food Business, Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, 10/10/17

5 Technomic, GEN Z: Decoding the Behaviors of the Next Generation, November 2015

6 Fast Casual, “3 Ways to Engage Millennials and Gen Z,” 4/13/17

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