Food Companies Are Catering to Gen Z

The generation seeks novel, better-for-you products, and companies are responding.

July 05, 2023

The Wall Street Journal reports that Gen Z, the group born between 1997 and 2012, is coming of age as consumers and that food companies are making strides in figuring out how to appeal to this cohort.

Members of Gen Z “are accustomed to greater choice and are less willing to consume what they don’t immediately enjoy than previous generations, marketing executives and trend forecasters say,” reports the Journal.

One major trend: more chicken. The Journal reports that Taco Bell is leaning into poultry instead of beef to cater to these younger consumers. Kentucky Fried Chicken, meanwhile, is leaning into boneless chicken in another move designed to attract Gen Z.

Large food and beverage companies are facing a decision in terms of whether to spend millions on marketing existing products to this cohort or create new products. Many are choosing the latter. One example is PepsiCo’s decision to sunset Sierra Mist in favor of Starry, a similar lemon-lime soda that it says was “made to speak to Gen Z.”

Heineken Silver is another example. This beverage is “a lighter beer that is less bitter and contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than the brewer’s flagship offering.” While older generations learned to enjoy the bitter flavor of beer, Gen Z, growing up with endless options, is more prone to expect to immediately like a product, the Journal reports.

NACS Magazine covered the rise of Gen Z consumers in 2019. According to the article, IRI research found that a brand’s authenticity is more important to Gen Z than it was to preceding generations. “Authenticity is key. This generation does not want to be sold to,” said Lynne Gillis of IRI. Rather, she suggested that convenience retailers “create relationships with these consumers,” such as with personalized text messages or alerts via social media.