Throughout this series on Gen Z, we’ve explored what makes this generation unique. In particular, Gen Z (approximately 10-25 years old in 2020) stands out for being diverse, digitally connected, focused on wellness and engaged with social and environmental issues. And they want the brands they purchase from to authentically care about these issues too.
For food and beverage choices, these traits often translate into Gen Z consumers seeking food categories such as organic, plant-based and those with functional ingredients that can boost overall well-being. They also seek food that gives them a gratifying mental boost without being overly indulgent, such as choosing a plant-based fast food burger or a low- or no-alcohol drink.
Many Gen Zs also want food and beverage brands to be worth their time. They value convenience, such as with frozen food. If a meal isn’t quick, such as when dining out, they want it to be an experience.
So what does this all mean for the specific flavors that Gen Z craves? Their preferences often fall along the following four categories:
1. Something simple: In general, Gen Z prefers relatively easy flavors, rather than complex, adventurous ones. If they do go for twists, they still want familiar flavors. Think Tahitian vanilla or churro pancakes rather than Sriracha caramels. Gen Z also tends to avoid overwhelming and spicy flavors. So a simple side dish might be something like smashed potatoes.
2. Feeling good emotionally: Gen Z cares deeply about wellness, but they aren’t just focused on physical fitness. Food and beverage flavors should make them feel good emotionally. At times, this can apply to comfort food like mac & cheese. Or the item could still be tasty but a little more physically health-conscious, such as smoothies, which allow for lots of flavor variety, such as among fruits.
For example, our research finds that within the citrus family, Gen Z, when compared to Millennials, over-index on their preference for tangerine. They’re also more familiar than Millennials with dragonfruit within the tropical fruit category. And while Gen Z may not be huge fans of spicy food heat-wise, they do over-index on their preference for comforting spices like ginger and pumpkin spice.
3. Authentic: Related to wanting something simple, Gen Z wants authentic food and beverage as well. That can mean choosing name brands rather than knock-offs. Authenticity also relates to wanting ingredients with minimal alterations, such as extra virgin olive oil.
4. Ethnically diverse: Don’t mistake Gen Z’s preference for wanting familiar flavors to mean they want one type of cuisine. This diverse generation craves ethnically diverse food. That can mean choosing dishes ranging from pho to tamales to jambalaya to baklava to Korean BBQ.
While these tend to be the most important categories for Gen Z flavor preferences, that’s not all this generation cares about. Many still seek out other characteristics, such as flavorful experiences and wanting something new and different at times.
Examples of Gen Z Flavor Preferences
Based on the aforementioned characteristics that Gen Z seeks, there’s a lot of room for brands to create enticing offerings, some of which cut across multiple categories, e.g., a simple, emotionally positive dish.
To help get a sense of what these preferences look like, consider the following flavor preference examples across the following categories:
Savory — Soup
● Chicken noodle soup: This classic dish has both simple flavors while also providing comfort to help Gen Zs feel good emotionally.
● Coconut cream curry: For Gen Zs who want something a bit new and different and a flavorful experience, without going too outside the box, soup flavors like coconut cream curry can be appealing.
Sweet — Yogurt
● Vanilla: This classic flavor still holds sway with Gen Z. Keep in mind Gen Z’s desire for authenticity, so flavors should ideally be natural.
● Strawberry rhubarb: This is another example of providing a bit of a twist without going too far outside familiar flavors. Still, it’s a flavorful experience.
Beverage — Flavored Water (Still and Carbonated)
● Citrus: Adding a simple, ideally authentic citrus flavor can make water more appealing to Gen Z.
● Watermelon: This is another familiar flavor that can provide a fun, positive lift emotionally.
Gen Z has many unique characteristics, but food and beverage brands don’t necessarily have to go too far outside the box to find appealing flavors. Keeping in mind factors such as simplicity, overall wellness, authenticity and diversity can go a long way toward creating food and beverage Gen Z will crave.
This is the last installment of this series, on the specific types of flavors that excite Gen Z. If you want to catch up, read through the previous articles in this series below:
● Part 1 — Understanding Gen Z
● Part 2 — Gen Z as Consumers
● Part 3 — Gen Z Food Trends