Flavor, function and authenticity are critical needs for America’s youngest generation, and the chocolate industry is poised to deliver on this emerging demand.

In recent news, for example, Mars, Inc., which includes candy brands such as Snickers and M&M’s, is working to preserve the cacao plant through an initiative to fund efforts by University of California-Berkeley scientists to research and develop a new method of growing the crop.

Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, recently introduced a sensory language and tasting ritual that will help chocolate professionals and consumers to understand and express the richness of chocolate taste. Cocoa and chocolate sensory scientists from Barry Callebaut and the leading global flavor house Givaudan did extensive research to develop a chocolate sensory language and tasting ritual, inspired by what has already been created for wine, coffee and craft beer categories.

Pairing cocoa and chocolate sensory research with consumer understanding, Barry Callebaut developed the Consumer Chocolate Sensory Wheel with 87 descriptors, covering the flavor, texture and aroma of chocolate.

According to Valrhona, tasting grand chocolate is a rare, intense and intimate experience. One must take their time and concentrate to discover the complexity of the chocolate and appreciate the enjoyment as it reaches a crescendo. The “Art of Tasting” can be broken down into four stages, all of which are necessary for experiencing the richness and complexity of a grand chocolate, as well as for revealing its aromatic potential. The four stages are see, smell, listen and taste.

Such efforts appeal greatly to today’s consumers, especially younger ones who value authenticity when it comes to their food choices.

Generation Z, those born between 1997 and the present, now represent 27 percent of the US population, a larger group than millennials, and although only older Gen Zs are entering adulthood, their impact on the food industry is already being felt, finds a new study by The NPD Group, a global information company. 

Gen Zs, many of whom were raised by Gen Xers, grew up understanding the purpose of food and how it fits into a well-lived life.  As a result, this generational cohort has set expectations that food and food brands will follow their needs and not the other way around. 

By virtue of their upbringing, Gen Zs are unintentional foodies and were brought up in a culture that talks about, celebrates, and entertains with food, according to the recently released NPD report, “Make it Happen for Gen Zs.”

They are told at an early age what their food can do for them in terms of functional and nutritional value and not just how it tastes, bringing a new definition to the “value” of food. Gen Zs, like the millennials, prefer food and beverages with transparent labeling and an absence of artificial ingredients; and are skeptical of big brands and too many label claims, finds the NPD report, which takes a holistic look at the attitudes, behaviors and voices of Gen Zs.