An In-depth Look
College students snack more than all other demographics and are snacking at all times of the day, according to a study done by Y-Pulse that surveyed 1,314 consumers, including 177 full-time college students, about their snacking behavior.
Snack choices away from home were the focus of the study and respondents included only those who patronize foodservice venues.
The majority of full-time students prefer to snack two times a day with the late afternoon being a prime snack time and they are also more likely to snack at other times of the day compared with other survey respondents. In fact, 10% of full-time students say they snack as much as five times a day, compared with 5% of other survey participants.
“College students are establishing the eating habits of their future lives, and we found that they snack more often than all other demographics,” says Y-Pulse Executive Director Sharon Olson. “Snacking is their lifestyle choice.”
Snacking frequency has increased for 43% of these students over the past year, while remaining unchanged for 39%. Only 18% of this demographic say they are snacking less often.
Looking at snacking frequency by venue, 36% of full-time students are snacking more often at quick service/fast casual restaurants than they were a year ago, and 40% say they are snacking less often in casual dining restaurants. Close to half of all survey respondents in this demographic are snacking about the same at supermarket delis as the previous year and seeking snacks less often at convenience stores.
However, when buying snacks for immediate consumption, convenience stores are top of mind for this group of survey respondents, followed by quick service restaurants.
Surprisingly, 60% of the full-time college students surveyed say they are cooking at home more often than in the past year, which is 10% more when compared with the total survey respondents.
Price expectations for snacks vary, depending on the time of day. Full-time college students expect to pay between $1 and $3 for a morning snack. Full-time students also stated they would pay anywhere from $1 to $5 for an afternoon and evening snack compared to other survey respondents who would only pay between $1 to $3.
When looking at price expectations by venue, full-time students expect to pay more at supermarket delis, convenience stores and quick service restaurants than other survey respondents.
Yogurt and fruit were listed as morning snack favorites by the majority of those surveyed, while full-time college students’ preferences included mini sandwiches or wraps in the early afternoon; fruits, chips andsalty snacks in the late afternoon; cheese and fruit before dinner; bakery items after dinner; and fruit as a late-night snack.
Though freshness is the most important emotional factor influencing these students’ snack choices, fulfilling a craving is more important to this demographic than other survey respondents.
Snack purchasing decisions for full-time college studentsare impacted most by the convenience of the location to home, work and school and whether the item is perceived as a good value.
The flavor and quality of the food are most important to these consumers when purchasing a snack from a casual dining establishment or supermarket deli, but cost is the biggest factor when items are bought from a convenience store. Full-time students purchasing snacks at quick service/fast casual restaurants are primarily seeking a good value.
The survey also revealed that 53% of full-time students obtain the majority of new food and beverage information from television and 47% also learn about these items from friends and family.