Matt White, chair of The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and director of catering, hotel and conference services at The University of Reading, discusses the emerging food and drink trends tempting Millennials.

“Young people are among the most passionate and discerning foodie demographics. Research shows that Millennials are obsessed with food, spending the most on eating and drinking out and describing themselves as ‘living to eat’. Generation Z is hot on their heel and can be seen actively sharing their appetite for food on social media. To meet this audience’s ever evolving demand, catering outlets need to monitor food trends closely and delve deeper into the motivations driving purchasing decisions. This is particularly important for the higher education sector which largely caters for this market.

“Each year at TUCO, we conduct our annual Global Food & Beverage Trends Report which provides unrivalled insight into students’ food preferences and eating habits. This year’s results are in, identifying 12 overarching themes and close to 100 subtrends which are gathering momentum.

“We’re already seeing several of these trends being brought to life by our members, through innovative menu concepts designed to meet the evolving tastes of the market. Take the ‘Health for All’ trend for example, which focuses on demand for low sugar, vegan and high protein alternatives. The University of Chester has introduced a meat-free bar to cater for the rising number of vegetarians and vegans. This has resulted in a 30% increase in sales compared to the previous year, with the consumption of vegetarian food also rising by 30%.

“Meanwhile, the University of Brighton has launched a Sugar Smart campaign to encourage students and staff to reduce their sugar intake. The university introduced a 10p levy on drinks with high sugar content while increasing the range of healthier options and cutting the cost of drinks that contain less than five grams of sugar per 100ml, including bottled water. As a result, the university saw year-on-year sales of sugary drinks fall by 16% while maintaining the same volume of transactions.

“Brighton has also implemented a holistic approach to sustainable dining, tapping into the ‘Conscientious Consuming’ trend. Combining everything from field to fork procurement to offer greater access to local produce, to focusing on increasing the range and variety of plant based foods and promoting climate friendly menu choices in response to student feedback.”

The 12 trends to watch are:

1. Plant perfection Incorporating botanicals, florals and plant-based foods onto menus.

2. Crafted and curated 75% of Generation Z consider themselves as foodies and gravitate towards home-grown and home-made food

3. Experiential A shift towards a more involved dining experience and posting food photography on social media

4. Health for All Low sugar, low alcohol, high protein, vegan and anti-inflammatory food and drink options

5. Imbibing Turning alcohol on its head to create even more innovative and unusual flavour combinations

6. Having Fun Indulging now and again

7. Next Generation Willing to try anything, from unique twists on comfort food, to gourmet street food and drinkable desserts

8. Importance of Breakfast Millennials seek out foods that fuel physical activity and brain power

9. Conscientious Consuming Commitment to positive social and environmental impact

10. Just the Way You Want It Customisation and personalisation are key, as well as all-day dining and innovative and bespoke serving options

11. Trending Tastes Big and bold flavours

12. Global Larder The demand for global foods on campus has grown