Despite their seeming commitment to healthy eating, Gen Z consumers display a notable craving for comfort foods. With the stresses of daily life and 24/7 access to media ratcheting up anxiety, it’s no wonder they’re looking for some kind of escape through everyday activities like dining.
In the savory food category, Gen Z doesn’t seem terribly keen on wholly new experiences, which is understandable if comfort is the goal. Instead, they tend to lean toward familiar foods but perhaps with a subtle twist that makes them new. That said, Gen Z is an ethnically diverse group with a relatively worldly palate.
This is good news for restaurants and food manufacturers looking to gain attention, as they have many options to create the familiar, feel-good experiences Gen Z diners are seeking, with savory delights that are tasty and soothing to the soul.
It should come as no surprise that kids who grew up snacking on Goldfish and Pirate’s Booty would gravitate toward cheesy snacks as teens and adults. Is it possible to take a healthier approach to a typically high-fat food?
Several brands have proven it’s not only possible but a popular trend. Kale chips might not be the most appealing on their own, but when paired with Zesty Nacho flavoring, Rhythm Superfoods offers up a relatively low-fat take that achieves its cheesy appeal with a blend of veg powders, organic seeds, juices, herbs, and spices.
Then there’s Moon Cheese, a crispy snack with just one ingredient — cheese. It’s no magic trick; it’s simply been stripped of moisture. Parm Crisps follow a similar strategy, but with 100% parmesan that’s been oven baked and seasoned with a proprietary flavor blend.
Rice and Grains
When you think of savory foods, you might not immediately focus on rice and grains, which are notably bland in and of themselves. However, rice and grains have definitely found a place in the regular dietary habits of Gen Z.
Perhaps it’s the proliferation of rice and grain bowls showing up on TikTok and Instagram, packed with colorful meats, veggies, and savory sauces. Maybe it’s the comfort food vibes associated with these gluten-free carbs. Either way, Gen Z seems drawn to the trend.
Gen Z may lean toward familiarity when it comes to savory snacks and flavors, but they’re happy to go hog wild when dips enter the picture. While older generations might stick with traditional ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing, and BBQ sauce, Gen Z will boldly dip their savory snacks in spicy gochujang, Thai chili sauce, sweet and salty eel sauce, or tangy buffalo sauce.
They’re also adventurous enough to mix and match, pairing sweet, savory, and spicy sauces with abandon to achieve new but still familiar flavors.
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Stovetop popcorn is typically healthier than buttered microwave alternatives or even pre-popped and packaged popcorn snacks, but it does require considerably more effort. Thankfully, several brands have popped up (so to speak) with offerings that serve up snack attack realness with a health-conscious appeal.
Brands like 365 Organic (the Whole Foods in-house brand) and Skinny Pop use sunflower oil (high in vitamins A and E) to reduce saturated fat. Smartfood takes this satisfying snack to the next level with its White Cheddar Popcorn, which tastes incredibly authentic without going overboard on unhealthy fats or sodium.
Gen Z Prefers Savory Nostalgia
Gen Z may be hesitant to stray very far afield of the nostalgic flavors they favor, but with a bit of creativity and an understanding of what this generation gains from their eating experience, it’s not hard to come up with savory recipes that appeal to their sensibilities.
To best appeal to Gen Z, companies would benefit from staying fresh and dynamic with all food, beverages, and flavors. To learn more about our Gen Z initiative, contact us HERE.