May 17, 2023
Born between 1997-2012, right after the Millenials, the Generation Z audience ranges in age from 10-25. While young, this audience represents about one-third of the U.S. population and has a significant influence on the U.S. economy. In 2022 alone, the spending power of the Gen Z audience rose to $360B.
This audience is a diverse and tech-savvy group and because of the amount of information at their fingertips, they are also informed. Before they make a purchase, they research, ask their friends, or ask their wider online network. This also applies to what Gen Z chooses to eat. For food products to appeal to the Gen Z consumer, manufacturers need to understand this audience’s food preferences and eating habits. Here are the 5 trends that point to what the Gen Z audience is looking for when they make their food purchasing decisions.
Instead of the 3 square meals a day mantra that older generations grew up with, Gen Z prefers to eat short meals and eat more frequent snacks throughout the day. While the Gen Z audience tends to choose more healthy options overall, the top-rated snack brands in this group are Lay’s, Cheetos, Doritos, and General Mills’ Nature Valley.
According to a study by investment banking company Piper Sandler, nearly half of Gen Z respondents stated they are already consuming or plan to consume more plant-based meat products. Gen Z has an increased reception to a vegan lifestyle than older audiences, and brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have established themselves as leaders in the plant-based meat space with Gen Z. The adoption of plant-based meat alternatives at fast food restaurants is a result of the influence of the younger Gen Z audience.
For the Gen Z audience, environmental sustainability is one of the top political and economic issues of the moment. According to a study by Food Insight, one-third of Gen Z consumers stated that sustainability had an impact on their decisions to buy food and beverages. Half of the respondents agreed that their individual choices had an impact on the environment.
In the food industry, sustainability starts with the processes involved with production. When it comes to restaurants, buying from local suppliers has a major impact on the carbon footprint of each dish. The Gen Z audience wants to know where their food comes from and how it is produced.
The amount of information on healthy eating is higher than ever before. And social media platforms often feature content that promotes nutritious and fresh food. The Gen Z audience is also aware of eating food to boost their physical and mental health, especially with a focus on digestive and gut health. They are on the lookout for menu items made with fresh, organic, and sustainable ingredients.
Perhaps inspired by the rise of the social media-friendly meal, the Gen Z audience has street fare on their radar. A recent study by Technomic revealed that 42% of Gen Z respondents stated they look for street food-inspired dishes on restaurant menus. The convenience and the discovery of new flavors draw Gen Z to street food, and they especially love food trucks that often serve this type of cuisine.
While open to trying new flavors and cuisines, the Gen Z audience is a demanding group of eaters. As they get older, securing their loyalty will be essential to food service providers.
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