Gen Z Has Expectations for Food Brands

For this younger generation, flavor, function and authenticity will prevail over brand and hype.
January 25, 2018

CHICAGO – Generation Z, those born 1997 to present, now represent 27% of the U.S. 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, per a new study by The NPD Group.

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, notes NPD. 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 “Make it Happen for Gen Zs” report. 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; 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. 

Growing up with a greater emphasis on flavor and function rather than brand will make Gen Zs more challenging for food marketers to reach. Like the millennials, this group wants authenticity and although the term has become synonymous with clean and fresh, it broadens for Gen Zs to include brands that honestly offer experiences. This tech-savvy generational group who never knew a world without the internet also seeks personalization, engagement and fluidity, like portable foods, to meet the needs of their busy lives.   

“The more I study trends in retailing, foodservice and eating patterns, the more I become convinced that the macro themes emerging in consumption behavior are generationally driven,” says David Portalatin, NPD and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Gen Z’s will be a seismic force for the food industry as they emerge into adulthood under more prosperous economic circumstances, yet with their own differentiating set of values.”

You can also hear more about convenience store food trends from Portalatin in a recent Convenience Matters podcast, “Exploring Convenience Food and Drink Trends.”