There are over 5,300 colleges and universities within the US, and the majority of these offer on-campus dining options. A large number of both students and faculty dine in these facilities resulting in billions of meals being served through on campus dining services every single year.
The sheer quantity of food and ingredients moving through these facilities creates a significant impact on supply and demand, in those localities and nationally, and can have broader ripple effects on things such as emissions produced as a byproduct of food manufacturing.
Several major providers in this space are becoming more aware of the impact and have pledged to reduce emissions, and provide healthier options. As a result many are moving towards plant-based and plant-centered menus for on campus dining facilities.
Aramark, a large food-service provider, has recently joined this movement. Pledging to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, this provider has committed to making 44% of its menus plant-based by 2025 to support a more climate friendly approach to food service. These changes will show in the dining facilities of over 250 colleges, as well as corporate venues, hospitals, and events cafeterias.
Another food service giant committed to increasing the amount of plant-based options available on college campuses is Sodexo. This provider, which purchases over $20 million in goods annually, has announced it will be changing its menus to include more plant-based options. By 2025 this company has pledged its menus will be at least 42% plant-based. These actions are meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be more climate-friendly. Sodexo is also working to cut carbon emissions 34% by 2025.
Changes from major providers like these has the potential reach hundred of thousands of US students and influence purchasing behavior at a pivotal time, when these students are entering a stage of financial independance and increased purchasing power. As students are able to try these plant-based options in a cafeteria setting they are able to test how these food items pair with other options, how they compare to conventional products, and experience the versatility alternative proteins offer.
For these students, the normalization of alternative protein is occuring early and this can have a widespread impact on the demand for these products. The purchasing decision impact from younger generations is already being seen in the market place, and currently Gen Z is leading the demand for alternative proteins.
Gen Z has an interest in more climate friendly products, and the prevalence of these items on college campus will serve to increase awareness while bolstering demand for alternative protein items through other channels – including restaurants, and retail stores.