Food for thought

Global report reveals student demand for healthy, vegan and free-from foods at UK universities

More than half of UK students (60 per cent) expect vegan or vegetarian food to be available at their university catering or retail outlets, and 49 per cent expect free-from foods, according to Sodexo’s International University Lifestyle Survey. The report provides insight into the lives and lifestyles of students across the world, polling over 4,000 students in six markets (the US, China, India, Spain and Italy, as well as the UK).

Almost 60 per cent of UK students say they try to eat healthily – more than the global average – and one in five (20%) believes it is essential to eat healthily. However this figure has been falling steadily since 2008 when 67% of UK students made this claim. Nearly half of UK students (46 per cent) expect Fairtrade or ethically-certified produce to be available at their university and 30 per cent said they would be happy to pay more for these items. 60 per cent of UK students think it is important for their university to be mindful of food waste, reducing it where possible – substantially behind India and China where 87 per cent and 82 per cent of students respectively think this.  

Due to the increasing cost of living and rising university fees, the survey reveals students are looking for ways to save money in their day-to-day lives, and often their social lives are the first thing to suffer. 60 per cent of students said they had not gone out with friends to save money and 31 per cent had skipped a meal. That said, eating out is still an important part of student life. 66 per cent of UK students eat out with friends at least once a week and 60 per cent per cent go to a café on a weekly basis. The frequency with which students use their student union bar was quite different for students in different countries.  

Nearly half of UK students expect Fairtrade or ethically-certified produce to be available at their university

When it comes to lunch time, in a typical week, almost two thirds of UK students (65 per cent) make their own lunch and eat it in their student accommodation. Almost half (46 per cent) eat a packed lunch off campus, with an equal percentage (46 per cent) eating a lunch purchased on campus. The report also showed that a third (34 per cent) were interested in learning cooking skills as part of their university experience,  and a similar proportion (32 per cent) like to hang out at their own or a friend’s house once a week.  

Jo Cash, European Marketing Director, Schools and Universities, Sodexo, commented: “Universities have to meet greater demands from their students in relation to the catering services provided. By undertaking such an extensive study on a global level, we can learn more about students’ preferences, allowing us to create offers on site that respond to these needs. This year has shown a strong demand for vegan, free-form and ethically certified produce and this reflects our experiences at the universities where we provide catering.’  

Based on their profiles, the report set out five types of UK students in 2017, the ‘Healthy and Ethical Student’ being one. This student cares about the food they eat and how it is sourced. Eating healthily will be on their mind, as will their university’s ethics and impact on the environment. The other types of students today are The Sensible Student; The Money Conscious Student; The Home Comforts Student and The Career-Focused Student.

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