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September is fast approaching, bringing the start of the new academic year for universities – and the expectation from students for a wide variety of food and beverage options that cater to their lifestyles and values.

This year’s intake of students will mostly belong to Generation Z (commonly agreed to be those born between 1997-2012), so ensuring that university catering solutions fit this younger generation’s unique needs to pique their interest is important.

Rachel Johnson, New Business Manager, explores some of the top Gen Z trends for university catering services to bear in mind to help you adapt your offering to meet varying dietary needs and preferences.

Diversifying meal options for international students

According to a report by Universities UK, a staggering 22% of students in the academic year 2020-21 were from international backgrounds. This means that universities need to step up their game and embrace the diversity within their student population.

Moreover, with the ever-growing influence of social media, especially when it comes to sharing recipes, restaurant reviews, and food trends, Gen Z is more connected than ever to global culinary experiences. In fact, a recent Mintel study revealed that a whopping 62% of young people credit social media for inspiring them to cook international dishes.

To keep up with these evolving tastes and preferences, your university must provide various authentic global food options. By offering a diverse menu, you’ll satisfy your students’ adventurous palates and create an inclusive and vibrant campus environment.

Supplier solutions:

Love Joe’s ‘Super Bowls’ are a delicious and easy example of this – balanced bowls packed with nutrition and flavour – making it easy for students to eat well and save time without sacrificing taste or breaking budgets.

Try their recipe for the oriental fusion bowl – which includes shredded Chinese 5-spice thigh with Jasmin-style rice, crunchy Chinese slaw garnished with chopped spring onions and crushed prawn crackers.

Easy, convenient and quick options

Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to catering to the needs of today’s busy students. With hectic schedules and limited time, they often look for quick and easy grab-and-go options. That’s why it’s essential to have a wide selection of hot and cold food and snacks readily available, ensuring that students always have a hassle-free way to grab a bite, even when pressed for time.

Gen Z has grown up in the digital age. Adding online ordering capabilities to campus food outlets can help students access meals easily, anytime, with just a touch of a button.

Supplier solutions:

Doritos Hot Nachos by Pepsico provides the ideal solution for students looking to grab a quick bite between lectures. This simple, low-resource recipe offers a convenient, readily available handheld option – and this recognisable brand has proven popular in universities.

Plant-based and healthy diets

Plant-based and vegan diets are no longer considered niche choices and have become mainstream among university students. The younger generation cares about their health and the environment.

The numbers of vegan and vegetarian diets are highest amongst the younger generations. Still, those who follow an entirely plant-based lifestyle are not the only ones to consider: a recent study shows that 43% of Gen Z in Briton say they are looking to reduce their meat intake in 2023, and 79% choose to go meatless at least once per week.

Embracing various plant-based solutions and meat-free food alternatives at your campus food outlets and in pre-packaged sales is a key aspect to consider.

Supplier solutions:

Make it convenient with grab-and-go plant-based hotdogs from Vegetarian Express. Swapping a meat-based sausage to a plant-based one is a simple way to make an impact.

Vegetarian Express also offer ingredients for plant-based tacos – including plant-based crabcake and the Omni golden fillet, which has a cod-like flavour and texture and cooks in under 5 minutes!

We’re here to help.

We’ve been collaborating with our supply partners to get insight into their product ranges for university students.

If you’re interested in learning more about any of the supplier solutions mentioned above or are looking for specific ingredients, products, concepts, or an innovative menu, please get in touch with your Pelican account manager, call 01252 705214 or email us at

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