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Plant-Based Incubator Launched to Accelerate Shift in College Menus

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Nestlé Professional, Wholesome Crave and the University of Massachusetts Dining Program (UMass Dining) have joined forces to offer college and university foodservice operators turnkey tips, fully-developed recipes and workshops, and collaboration to help speed the introduction of more sustainable, plant-based meals in college campus dining rooms. And frozen food components are an important part of the menu.

The Purpose-Driven Plant-Based Incubator was developed in collaboration with four-time James Beard Award Winner Chef Michel Nischan of Wholesome Crave and the culinary team at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the number one US college dining program for six years running according to the Princeton Review.

For 2023, more than 12 other schools have signed up to participate with the Incubator, including the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kent State University, Vanderbilt University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Montreal’s Concordia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With the current launch partners, the program has the ability to impact over 500,000 student meals a day.

“We’re committed to helping our partners address the new realities of the foodservice landscape. This incubator does just that, as it showcases plant-forward recipes while providing guidance on how to reduce operators’ and students’ carbon footprints,” said Perry Miele, president and chief executive officer of Nestlé Professional. “In addition to the Playbook we’re offering, the incubator program will include hands-on workshops and collaboration to help partners customize their own journey – no matter if they’re a small college with a single dining hall or an entire university system with dozens of foodservice venues.”

The new incubator, modeled after the UMass Dining plant-based menu program, was created in response to foodservice providers reporting increased demand for a wider variety of globally inspired, flavor-driven, plant-forward options. The program addresses how best to develop flavorful plant-forward recipes, streamline dish preparation, introduce cooking techniques that enhance flavor, work within budget constraints and simplify operational challenges.

Recipes in the Playbook include Tres Hermanas Enchiladas made with Sweet Earth Mindful Chik’n, Minor’s Vegan Alfredo and Wholesome Crave Native three Sisters Soup, a Sweet Earth Breakfast Sausage Patty Sandwich, and a Bucatini Bolognese made with Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds and Wholesome Crave tomato Basil Soup.

Each menu item includes a plant-based soup from Wholesome Crave that adds flavor depth and richness, while offering a unique speed-scratch solution.

Last November, menu items from the Playbook were debuted at an 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.

“We are excited to collaborate with the world’s largest food manufacturer, Nestlé Professional, and mission driven organization Wholesome Crave. 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,” said Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “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.”