Generation Z's Impact on Food

Presenting at IFT 2018 in Chicago earlier this summer, global market research company Mintel shared how the diverse and tech-savvy Generation Z is set to transform food and beverage formulation in the coming years. This demographic will put a greater emphasis on health and wellness, international cuisine, and DIY experiences.

As their parents keep a watchful eye on sugar content, America’s youngest consumers are learning to become health-conscious themselves. According to Mintel, 60% of parents with kids aged 12-17 and 55% of parents with kids aged 18+ in the household report saying “no” to their kids’ food and drink choices based on sugar content. This has influenced Gen Z, as one quarter (25%) of teens aged 15-17 say they worry about staying healthy.

“Generation Z has come of age at a time when health and wellness is a major consideration. Many younger members of Generation Z follow their parents’ healthy ways and it seems health-consciousness only gets stronger as they approach adulthood. However, health is multi-faceted for this group, suggesting that better-for-you formulations, such as craveable fruits and vegetables, can be expanded to give this generation options that fit with their ever-changing diet priorities,” says Dana Macke, Associate Director of Lifestyles and Leisure Reports at Mintel.

Today’s younger generations also happen to be the most diverse in U.S. history. Through these backgrounds and the exposure to different experiences, Gen Z consumers are driving consumption of more emerging international food and drink. This appreciation for international cuisine is being cultivated at younger ages.

This goes beyond the more commonplace varieties such as Italian, Mexican, and Chinese. Adult Gen Z consumers are more open to Indian (36%), Middle Eastern (38%) and African (27%) food experiences.

“Generation Z is America’s most diverse generation yet. With exposure to international foods starting at an early age, whether in restaurants or at home, Generation Z is more likely to be open to the latest international food trend or innovative fusion creation. These adventurous habits are creating opportunities across categories, presenting potential for products such as tikka masala meal kits or Chinese Peking duck-flavored potato chips. While restaurants remain the most common points of discovery for international cuisine, younger consumers’ exposure to a range of cuisine types creates opportunities for brands to offer more authentic and hybrid flavors,” says Jenny Zegler, Associate Director at Mintel Food & Drink.

The curiosity for new experiences also extends to developing hobbies and interests. 80% of Gen Z consumers under age 18 saying their hobbies and interests are just as important as their school work, and 36% of consumers aged 10-17 and 31% of those aged 18-22 believe that being creative is an important factor to being successful as an adult. This offers opportunities for food and drink brands to create do-it-yourself experiences for consumers.

“The wide range of food media, whether MasterChef Junior or YouTube videos, has piqued an interest in food and drink among some members of Generation Z. This younger generation’s easy access to technology and interest in being creative presents an opening for interactive products that encourage Gen Z to safely experiment and extend their passion for food and drink, such as chips that allow consumers to make their own flavor or kits to make more complex recipes or international meals at home,” says Zegler.