Offering healthy foods at high school concession stands

by Drew Hanks
Adding healthier foods to concession stands can increase sales and customer satisfaction. Credit: Daniel Miller

Pep-rallies, the marching band, cheers and chants, and savory, indulgent foods sold at the concession stand are all beloved features of the American high school sports tradition.

In contrast to the nutrition requirements on breakfast and lunches sold in school cafeterias, foods sold at concession stands do not follow the standard nutrition guidelines because they are typically sold for fundraising purposes. Is there something that can be done to improve the healthful features of concession stand , and preserve the profits they generate? According to this new study the answer is yes! Co-author Brian Wansink says, "this study shows that if you give people healthy foods they will buy them and be more satisfied!"

In this study published in the Journal of Public Health, Dr. Helena Laroche, an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Iowa, and her research team along with researchers from the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (B.E.N. Center) identified two successful strategies for improving the nutritional quality of foods sold at concession stands: 1) offer 5-10 healthy food options 2) modify the ingredients of popular items to contain less saturated and trans fats.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Revenue and sales data from the concessions at Muscatine High School in Muscatine, IA were collected for two fall sports seasons one year apart. In the first season, no changes were made to the foods sold. In the second season, 8 new healthier foods were sold in addition to the standard foods offered. These foods included carrots, apples, a grilled chicken sandwich, and string cheese. Furthermore, the regular nacho cheese sauce was replaced with a no trans-fat variety and the popcorn was prepared with canola oil that has less saturated fat and no trans-fat compared to the coconut oil bars previously used.

Overall, the healthier items accounted for 9.2% of total sales, a clear indication of demand for these items. Sales of these items did increase from game to game suggesting increasing interest in these foods. Income also increased by 4% when the healthier items were sold. Sales of the modified nacho's and popcorn increased by 8% despite the relatively healthier nature of the foods.

Finally, when the were offered parental satisfaction increased.

"These results reveal the opportunities available for concession stand operators to improve the nutritional quality of what they sell, while maintaining customer satisfaction and profit," says co-author Brian Wansink. Furthermore he recommends adding 5-10 new healthful items to the concessions menu—"Adding variety, 5-10 new healthful items, will make it easier for customers to find something that they like. Try adding items such as, granola bars, fresh fruit, string cheese and mixed nuts. Rather than removing the less healthy options, make them using healthier ingredients and preparation methods— patrons will still get the foods they love and they can feel better about eating them!"

More information: Laroche, H., Ford, C., Anderson, K., Cai, X., Just, D., Hanks, A., & Wansink, B. (2014). Concession Stand Makeovers: A Pilot Study of Offering Healthy Foods at High School Concession Stands. Journal of Public Health. Forthcoming.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Healthy food is good for you—and can sell, too

Mar 11, 2014

In the fall of 2008, the booster club in Muscatine, Iowa took a chance. Researchers from the University of Iowa asked whether the club would add healthy foods – from apples to string cheese – to its concessions ...

New rules aim to rid US schools of junk foods

Jun 27, 2013

(AP)—High-calorie sports drinks and candy bars will be removed from vending machines and cafeteria lines at all U.S. schools as soon as next year, replaced with diet drinks, granola bars and other healthier items.

Seeing certain foods prompts kids to eat healthier

Jul 25, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Just because healthful foods are available in school cafeterias doesn't mean children are going to eat them, but in some cases, the very presence of such foods as whole fruit may actually prompt kids to ...

Recommended for you

Taking aim at added sugars to improve Americans' health

2 hours ago

Now that health advocates' campaigns against trans-fats have largely succeeded in sidelining the use of the additive, they're taking aim at sugar for its potential contributions to Americans' health conditions. But scientists ...

Drink up for exercise, but not too much

4 hours ago

With students heading back to school, fall sports are in full swing. In addition to training, eating right, and getting enough sleep, a significant key to health and performance is staying hydrated. However, the recent tragic ...

Gang life brings deep health risks for girls

4 hours ago

Being involved in a gang poses considerable health-related risks for adolescent African American girls, including more casual sex partners and substance abuse combined with less testing for HIV and less knowledge ...

User comments