University News

UMass Dining Partners with Nestlé Professional, Wholesome Crave to Accelerate Plant-based Shift in Campus Menus

In response to student demand, new workshops and a playbook will guide introduction of globally inspired, flavor-driven and operationally friendly menu items to drive scaled change

The University of Massachusetts Dining Program, Nestlé Professional and Wholesome Crave announce the launch of a first-of-its-kind partnership that offers college and university foodservice operators a playbook with tips and recipes, workshops and collaboration opportunities to help speed the introduction of more sustainable and delicious plant-forward offerings on campus menus.

The Purpose-Driven Plant-Based Incubator™ was modeled after the UMass Dining plant-forward menu program and developed collaboratively by the UMass Amherst culinary team (the number one U.S. college dining program for six consecutive years, according to the Princeton Review) and four-time James Beard Award-winning Chef Michel Nischan of Wholesome Crave.

It was created in response to food service providers reporting increased demand for a wider variety of globally inspired, flavor-driven, plant-forward options. The program addresses how best to develop flavorful recipes, streamline dish preparation, introduce cooking techniques that enhance flavor, work within budget constraints and simplify operational challenges.

“Studies done at the UMass Dining Living Laboratory® find that Gen Z students increase consumption of plant-forward ingredients when incorporated with authentic global recipes,” says Ken Toong, executive director of UMass Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises. “This latest initiative demonstrates how we can continue to use our culinary expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to drive our industry by inspiring students to enjoy a plant-forward diet now and into the future.”

For 2023, 15 other universities from across the country have signed up to participate with the incubator, which could impact more than 500,000 student meals a day.

There is also the ability to help students and operators track their emissions footprint via on-menu carbon labeling. The incubator is intended to be a space to share insight and knowledge among existing and new partners, and to create and test new opportunities, recipes and approaches to successfully accelerate plant-based options.

Menu items from the playbook were unveiled at a Nov. 3 event hosted by incubator founders on the UMass Amherst campus. Members of the university student body, faculty and the general public were invited to try the new dishes for the first time and share feedback.