A number of research reports have found that younger generations — Millennials and Gen Z — are more likely to be influenced by a company’s sustainability initiatives. Gen Z in particular is predicted to become more influential than Boomers. This is a group putting their collective spending power behind brands with conscience, purpose and a commitment to action.  

As they set up new households, Gen Z will continue to raise the bar for brands and manufacturers alike. A report from the Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., Eating Alone Occasions by Generation, found an increase in eating occasions among family members of Gen Z. This continued togetherness is a result of financial impacts from the pandemic and recent inflationary pressures.  

IRI, Chicago, suggests manufacturers connect with Gen Z as a critical cohort. In action, this translates into the need for a much higher standard of transparency, social responsibility and product efficacy than demanded by previous generations. Gen Z expects authenticity and transparency led by honesty and straightforwardness, resulting in functional products that give back to society. 

IRI’s Fresh Bread Trends: Winning with Younger Consumers report demonstrated that Millennials, like Gen Z, are also poised to reshape the economy. This is a demographic saddled with debt and many have less money to spend than previous generations. Because of this, they are putting off marriage and home ownership in favor of a “sharing economy." Millennials prioritize daily wellness and choose brands offering maximum convenience at the lowest cost.  

When looking to appeal to these younger Millennial and Gen Z demographics, bakery manufacturers can demonstrate value beyond the lowest cost, recommended Tim Grzebinski, client insights principal, IRI. This includes the use of displays and promotions to boost unit sales and to promote baked goods as a part of healthy and convenient meals. Cross-generationally, healthy eating is also a counter to pandemic-related over-indulgence. This finds consumers across the board searching for products touting premium and better-for-you ingredients. 

Manufacturers can better connect with consumers by meeting them where they are now. With a phone always close at hand, brands can cultivate social relationships, especially with tech-savvy consumers. Both Millennials and Gen Z respond well to digital content and appreciate personalized messaging. The use of social media can be an opportunity to bridge the gap between inspiration and purchase through how-to tips, recipes and storytelling. 66% of regular social media users have searched for baked item related ideas, according to the ABA bakery report. 

Research from Mondelez International found 62% of consumers say they enjoy food content on social media with interest in food trends, grocery hauls and sensory food content. 76% say virtual viewing has inspired them to try foods in real life. Brands are also beginning to experiment with the metaverse.