Our prayers have been answered (or at least all the campus dining survey emails flooding our mailboxes).
Benson’s Forest Greens’ extreme makeover has the whole campus buzzing. The Village Juice smoothie bar and the resurrection of a sandwich section has finally quieted the stirrings of the millennials desperate for a genuinely healthy meal on campus. What used to sit in the center of Benson has found a new home tucked away in the back, almost out of sight but certainly not out of mind.
The line ever since the new Forest Greens arrival has backed up all the way past Chick-fil-a, even stealing customers from the less nutritious neighbor. Students have been willing to wait for up to 30 minutes in some cases, many with forgiving attitudes towards the kinks and difficulties of wait times and incorrect orders as the new tasks are integrated.
The Forest Greens/Village Juice line phenomenon represents quintessential millennial behavior. Wake Forest dining offerings is acting as a microcosm for the food industry at large. Finally, business is responding to customer wants, and they’re seeing an overwhelming response.
The explosion in demand is happening because the millennial generation and the generation that follows (Gen Z) care about health in ways that previous generations never have.
According to Nielsen, one of the leading global research corporations, younger consumers are much more willing to pay a premium for healthy foods.
Two years ago, Nielsen surveyed people in 60 countries to rank the importance of 27 specific health attributes in food. They found that 40% of Generation Z respondents and 38% of Millennials say ingredients sourced sustainably are very important in their purchase decisions. They also found that Gen Z and Millennials are much more willing to pay a premium for all attributes in the survey than older customers.
This Nielsen survey was administered two years ago, and the health trend has exploded since then. Exhibit A: Wake Forest millennials have been waiting in lines for more than 20 minutes for more than a week to pay $12 for a smoothie.
Payton Adams is a sophomore who also works at the Village Juice Stratford location.
“I think that Village Juice serves great-looking food with even greater benefits,” she said. “I think that our generations’ obsession with health foods is driven by that.”
Junior Will Hargrove said that the new Forest Greens has been an ongoing, collaborative project for Student Government and many other groups on campus for almost two years now.
He added that he and the rest of Student Government are thrilled to see the lines going out the door.
Standing in the line myself, I heard a student behind me groan and say, “This is what I get for trying to be healthy” while staring at the crowds in front of him. Yet regardless of his whining, he stood in the line and walked away smiling with a salad and smoothie in hand.
Why? Because students know that Village Juice sources their ingredients organically and locally. The Wake Forest student body is willing to pay a premium for that- in fact, they’ve been begging for a locally, sustainably-sourced healthy food on campus for a long time.
A significant number of students (ourselves included, see evidence below) make the 15 minute trek to Village Juice’s location on Stratford Road multiple times a week in search of genuinely organic and healthy food.
The juicery opened their storefront two summers ago, and has experienced incredible growth since then. They are set to open a new, larger location downtown in January in the ground floor of the new Twin City Hive lofts on 4th St, right across the street from Mellow Mushroom.
All signs point to growth for Village Juice, and the smart move for Wake Forest would be partnering with them and other local, healthy, sustainable restaurants in the future.
The student body (and the Wake’s bank account) will be forever grateful.