Healthy Concession Stand

Junk food and sporting events go together like popcorn and butter at most American high schools. Concession stands are typically run as fundraisers, so cafeteria nutrition guidelines don’t apply 

Concession Stand Makeover

March 25, 2014

Healthy Concession Stand

Junk food and sporting events go together like popcorn and butter at most American high schools. Concession stands are typically run as fundraisers, so cafeteria nutrition guidelines don’t apply.  Can anything be done to improve the nutrition of popular snacks, while preserving the profits the concession stands generate?

Faculty Fellow Brian Wansink (AEM) says yes. “If you give people healthy foods they will buy them and be more satisfied,” he remarked. Wansink and colleagues in the Cornell Food and Brand Lab (see full-size version of above image) studied revenue and sales data from an Iowa high school’s concessions over two consecutive fall sports seasons. In the second year, they added a number of healthier menu choices and adapted some recipes for better nutrition. The healthier items accounted for 9.2 percent of sales—a clear indication of demand—and total revenue increased in the second year.

The researchers offered several recommendations for managers of school concession stands—tips that will also work in other retail food settings:

Adding variety, five to ten 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.

The study appeared in the Journal of Public Health on March 12 and has been widely cited in the media.

Read more about improving school concession stands.