Gen Z consumers, now in their teens and early 20s, are different from prior generations in a few key ways. When it comes to product purchases, they not only want value for their money, but they prefer to support brands that embody core values like sustainability. 

Regarding food and beverages, that means focusing not only on flavor but also on health and wellness.

When it comes to sweets, Gen Z shoppers want the best of both worlds — an indulgent experience that fulfills their need for a momentary escape but without processed sugars, additives, and preservatives. What does the landscape for sweet treats look like in 2023? Here’s what’s trending in the Gen Z marketplace.


Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of those comfort foods that’s always a good idea. While dairy versions are delightful, the dairy-free market has blossomed as more consumers with dietary restrictions clamor for versions of their faves that are suitable for lactose-intolerant diners.

Gen Z is fully on board with plant-based alternatives for all kinds of recipes, from appetizers and entrees to desserts, and ice cream is no exception. Just as Impossible and Beyond meats have gained popularity in the savory segment of the market, the frozen foods aisle has seen growth in vegan ice cream.

Brands like So Delicious and Oatly are dominating with nut milk bases and familiar flavors like cookie dough, strawberry, coffee, fudge brownie, and more. 

What do Gen Z shoppers gravitate toward? Surprisingly, they tend to prefer the familiarity of classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, but with a twist – think enhancements like Snickerdoodle, churro, and birthday cake cookie dough.


Cereal Bars

Functional foods are a big draw for Gen Z consumers, but they also gravitate toward a level of comfort and convenience when it comes to foods and beverages. Cereal bars hit that sweet spot, so to speak, when they offer up natural ingredients and favor nutrients over processed sugars.

In this category, brands like Kind provide the benchmark, thanks to inclusions like ancient grains that eliminate gluten as well as sweetening ingredients like honey, coconut, and brown rice syrup that lack the heavy refinement of processed sugars. 

While most cereal bars are far from healthy, despite claims of being natural, Gen Z shoppers seem adept at parsing out label information to find the brands that suit their preferences.


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Energy Bars

Energy bars are another functional fave among the Gen Z market. They may not have the same comfort appeal as cereal bars, but they certainly serve up the nutrients in a compact and convenient package.

RXBAR is a popular choice, not only due to the content of their recipes, which are high in protein and low in sugar, but also the brilliance of their packaging. 

Their major selling point is minimal ingredients and processing, and their packaging boldly displays this with a prominent ingredient list on the front, typically featuring just 3-4 ingredients, followed by a proclamation of “No B.S.”

With a wealth of options for sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, and organic bars, this segment of the on-the-go food market really caters to Gen Z pain points and product preferences.


Natural Sweeteners

When it comes to sweet snacks, the best way to grab the attention of Gen Z shoppers is with great-tasting products that eschew processed sugars and focus on health and wellness, as opposed to, say, deprivation dieting. 

Treats that incorporate ingredients like honey, maple syrup, apple sauce, and other natural sweeteners are definitely gaining ground as consumers from every generation seek sweets that are high in flavor but low in processed ingredients. 


Related: Gen-z Beverage Trends


Sweet and Healthy are Trending for Gen Z

Brands that get on board with prioritizing healthy ingredients, even in sweets, will have the edge as Gen Z consumers reach adulthood.


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.

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