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Don’t ignore Generation Z

This demographic looking for food that’s a reflection of their brand

Generation Z, or those born from 1997 to the present, is already impacting the food industry, according to a new report. Make it Happen for Gen Zs was released by the global information company NPD Group who partnered CultureWaves, a firm that monitors emerging consumer behavior trends.

This generation represents 27% of the U.S. population, a larger group then Millennials. Of course, many in Gen Z are still quite young.

While infants are not yet making their own decisions on products and brands to support, “teenagers actually have some spending power behind them,” said Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst with NPD. “They are forces in the economy.”

Retailers and restaurants don’t need to throw out the Millennial rulebook entirely, though. Fresh foods, organics, non-GMOs and clean eating all remain important to Gen Z, in particular the segment of the generation with spending and decision-making power.

“What seemed to be a twist [compared with Millennials] is how they see themselves as brands,” said Seifer. “They seek out products and services that are a reflection of those personal brands.” Remember this generation grew up with the internet. “I think a lot of that has to do with growing up in an Instagram and Facebook world. And people are their own brands online,” he continued. Naturally online word of mouth is a big source of information for this generation.

In addition, label claims and big brands are greeted by a healthy amount of skepticism. Instead, brands should consider what they advocate for, how they pay their employees, and how their company impacts the wider world. “They’re concerned with what happens before products hit the shelves,” said Seifer. He cites Chick-fil-A and Starbucks as brands successfully reaching Gen Z through their community outreach and social impact. “They are looking for restaurants that are a reflection of their own brand.”

This generation is full of unintentional foodies, according to this study. For this generation, food is more than sustenance – it’s something to talk about and celebrate, it's a tool to boost one’s health, and it's completely ingrained in their lives. This generation believes that food and food brands will conform to their needs.

Although this generation did not come of age during a recession, they're still money conscious, said Seifer. There’s student debt and health insurance to consider. So value is important to this generation just as it is to Millennials. And many in Gen Z can expect to stay at home longer than previous generations. 

But whether their purchasing power comes from a job or an allowance, for many in Generation Z, it's already here.

“It is important to gain their loyalty at that age,” said Seifer. “You can wait, but maybe a competitor has already started building that trust process and that will leave you behind down the road.”

Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @gloriadawson

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