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Students-at-Texas-A&M.jpeg Chartwells Higher Ed
Students at Texas A&M, where Chartwells manages the campus dining program.

Chartwells Higher Education shares top 5 food trends for the 2023 fall semester

From functional foods to nostalgic flavors, these are the hottest food trends coming to college campuses this year.

Because college students continue to drive the changes being made in food with the latest trends, the culinarians at Chartwells Higher Education have compiled a list of the top five food trends to look out for on college campuses this fall semester.

"Our chefs and campus dining teams are constantly researching the latest food crazes, listening to student feedback, and experimenting with global flavors to innovate our menus based on emerging trends," explains Joe Labombarda, vice president of culinary at Chartwells Higher Education. "We take pride in not only providing delicious and nutritious meals, but creating new, unique, and inclusive menus for our guests that they probably have not tried elsewhere."

Here are five food trends to be aware of in college dining in 2023 according to Labombarda and Chartwells Higher Education's culinary team...

1. By land and sea: demand for plant-based meat and seafood will continue to rise.

While plant-based meat has been rising in popularity for some time, plant-based seafood is also on the rise, with the market size estimated to reach $1.3 billion by 2031. Plant-based meat and seafood offer more inclusive options for students and are becoming standard in many dining halls. At the University of Memphis, students can dine on plant-based Nori Fried Rice, which includes a dusting of seaweed on top.

2. Functional foods will become staples in students' wellness routines.

Snacks are no longer just for hunger, but ways to promote improved mood regulation and assist with factors like sleep, focus, and energy. With vitamins and ingredients like oat bran fiber, soy protein, and fish oil fatty acids, food is now providing physiological benefits to consumers. For example, students at the University of Nevada, Reno can enjoy heart-healthy yogurt bars, mental clarity green tea and watermelon frescas made with the school's signature functional food recipes.

3. Cravings for nostalgic flavors and comfort foods of the past will increase.

Modern food culture is turning back the clock to bring back nostalgic, childhood foods, such as retro candy flavors, fruity cereals, and ice cream sandwiches. Flavors of the past often provide comfort and give consumers an emotional connection to food. The University of Minnesota provided students with a Retro Remix night that featured an 80s and 90s-inspired menu inclusive of pizza bagels, chicken fajitas, 'TV Dinners', eggplant parmesan, and Reese's salad.

4. Trust your gut: fermented drinks will take priority for gut health.

Drinks like kombucha and probiotic waters are still increasing in popularity, as consumers focus more and more on digestive health and the other benefits that fermented drinks provide. Sixty-six percent of consumers that drink kombucha do so for the probiotics, highlighting the importance of gut health and overall wellness.

5. Chaos cuisine and unique cooking "smashups" will rise in popularity.

Chefs and consumers alike are embracing the method of chaos cooking, or combining classic recipes or cuisines. Dishes like Wonton Nacho Bowls with Orange Chicken and Vegetables, Spicy Street Corn Macaroni and Cheese, and Tandoori Spaghetti are just a few of the many possibilities of cooking smashups coming to Chartwells' partner campuses this fall.

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