Every night, food delivery drivers race to college campuses across the United States to accommodate the late-night cravings of college students. For decades, midnight burritos and 2 a.m. pizzas have helped get students through all-night cram sessions or social activities.

According to Grub Hub, “college students are 87 percent more likely to order late-night meals than the average diner.” Students are also 28 percent less likely to place “healthier” orders, thus indicating that these late-night eating habits may contribute to the infamous Freshman 15. Regardless of the possible consequences of late-night snacking, college students across the nation can routinely be found lining up at fast food joints or calling for Chinese food at any hour of the night.

photo credit Insomnia Cookies

Over the past decade, the market for tired and hungry college students has expanded in a whole new direction. In 2003, University of Pennsylvania student Seth Berkowitz created Insomnia Cookies to cater
to these cravings. Insomnia Cookies currently has 70 locations in 21 states and continues to expand rapidly. With a diverse menu and delivery service until 3 a.m., the brand is any college student’s dream.

CNBC contributor Carol Roth compares Insomnia Cookies’ brilliant business strategy to that of Twitter and Tinder, which all sought out college campuses to gain traction. Roth stated that “if you can get traction on a college campus, you have access to thousands of somewhat captive customers that are easier to reach because they are confined to certain geography and connection points.”

Roth no longer considers Insomnia Cookies a startup company, as it now celebrates over twelve years of success and expansion. Its consumers, commonly referred to as “fans,” continually praise the company’s “always warm” cookies that taste “homemade,” as described by Columbia University student Stephanie Shin.

Since it’s founding, Insomnia Cookies has inspired others to start similar businesses targeting college students. One of these companies, Campus Cookies, has attracted lots of attention in Virginia in the past several years. Campus Cookies was founded by James Madison University student Scott Davidson and has expanded to two other major college campuses in the state – Virginia Tech and University of Virginia – and also to Eastern Carolina University in Greensboro, North Carolina.

photo credit Beezodog’s Place

In 2012, John Piermarini founded Sweet Idea, a cookie delivery business that began at Tufts University in Boston. He started off as the sole delivery man for the company, riding around at odd hours of the night in a bright orange jumpsuit to deliver cookies to various campuses across the city. Due to high demand, Piermarini was quickly able to hire several additional bicyclists to reach Northeastern University and possibly Boston University in the future. Piermarini told BostInno that he would “bike in the snow, rain and ‘rapidly approaching apocalypse’” to deliver cookies to hungry college students.

For years, the science of late night eating has been a hot topic of discussion in the medical world and among everyday health enthusiasts. In a Washington Post article,  Kelly Allison of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders stated that the body is more likely to store calories consumed late at night as fat and thus may contribute to weight gain. Allison also stated that “people tend to choose more palpable items – sweet and salty foods, which tend to be more caloric – when they’re tired and have restrained themselves all day.”

While this may seem true, others disagree with Allison’s view, insisting that “a calorie is a calorie, no matter when consumed.” In an article by Huffington Post, registered dietitian Rebecca Stritchfield stated that the popular belief that you shouldn’t eat anything after 7 or 8 p.m. “simply isn’t true.” Stritchfield argues that the time that you eat is irrelevant; the key is to only eat when you are hungry.”

In college, that is difficult. Though we may be hungry late at night, there are definitely times when we snack late simply because the food is there. With late-night options becoming increasingly accessible for college students and these options becoming associated with study breaks or social gatherings, it is almost impossible to avoid what many call “social calorie consumption.” Social calorie consumption is essentially a crime of opportunity and is one of the major contributors to the Freshman 15. Many students ignore normal hunger cues – or lack thereof – and opt to indulge on a midnight slice of pizza… or five. Because college is a prime time to form either healthy or unhealthy habits to carry into adulthood, it is important to be mindful of what you’re eating.

That being said, college students are at a unique time in their lives where they have the energy to stay up late and the metabolism to order a few warm midnight cookies every now and then.

Featured image credit Insomnia Cookies.