Sophisticated college palates

Sodexo, a leading foodservice provider to 600 campuses in the U.S. and Canada, carefully monitors students' taste buds to satisfy today's well-traveled, celebrity-chef exposed, green-minded coeds.In culling through 20 years worth of menus in hundreds of cafes served by the company and in keeping step with the latest flavor trends, Sodexo came up with the top ten foods preferred by college students today, and 20 years ago. The list was developed by research from Sodexo's Student Board of Directors, Nielsen's Annual Restaurant Audit, Teenage Research Unlimited, Technomics Menu Monitor, NPD Group and other vendor partners.

"Parents of college students have cultivated very creative palates in their children by exposing them to many flavors through restaurants, travel, living abroad and creative homecooking," says Tom Post, president of campus dining for Sodexo. "Our expert chefs on campuses love to serve and dazzle customers with this high level of culinary literacy and we stay on top of the trends to deliver authentic, healthy options."

In order of popularity, food trends in 2009 include: Locally-grown fruits and veggies; Crispy garlic-ginger chicken wings; Mac 'n five cheeses; Vietnamese Pho; Green tea and pomegranate smoothies; Crab cake sliders; Mini samosas; Tilapia Veracruz; Goat cheese salad (with lavender lentils); and Chicken Mole.

How do those preferences compare to food trends in 1989? Favorites then included: Fruit and cottage cheese plate; Chicken nuggets; Turkey Tetrazini; Chicken Chop Suey; Egg, bacon and cheese English muffin; Half sandwich and cup of soup; Taco bar; Spanish beef and rice; Vegetarian bean chili; and Algerian lamb stew.

"The biggest change we've seen is in the demand for locally-grown produce and authentic international cuisine that is made to order," says Chef Rob Morasco, Sodexo's senior director of culinary support in the education market. "Super spices, comfort food with a twist, and the new age of Asian cuisine are some of the trends we're delivering."