Food and beverage manufacturers know they must look to the future when developing new products and flavors, and Gen Z is the future. So, the question isn’t, “Why does Gen Z matter as a consumer?” It’s more a case of “What does Gen Z want?” Manufacturers and distributors need an in-depth understanding of this influential demographic for the industry’s future success.

To help our customers create the types of food Gen Z craves, Symrise conducted a comprehensive analysis of Generation Z consumer insights and attitudes. This work is designed to make the buying habits of this generation, born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, clear and actionable for food scientists, marketing directors, and purchasing directors. 

To some in the industry, it may seem odd to focus on this young generation — many of whom don’t even have a job. Yet our research has shown that this untapped market has significant buying power and preferences of specific interest in seeing new business opportunities.

Related: How Does Gen Z Respond to Seasonal Alcohol Favorites?

Gen Z Insights: More Buying Power Than Millenials

To answer the question, “Why does Gen Z matter as a consumer?” it’s best to start with their surprising buying power. As a generation, these young people have as much as $44 billion to spend. 

How is that possible for young adults in this economy? The younger of this cohort are still in their teens and may be lucky to make money shoveling a driveway or caring for a neighbor’s cat. The older are still in school or are just getting established in their careers. 

But allowance adds up, and Gen Zers have grown up thrifty. The teens alone average around $16 a week from their parents for spending money. Older customers often have budgeted lives with limited overhead. Combined, their available free money totals around $44 billion. To put it in perspective, that’s about the same as the entire snacking market.

As they continue to mature and enter the workforce or start to advance in their careers, Gen Z is expected to be even more critical for the food and beverage industry. But don’t presume they’re like their predecessors. The most important of the Gen Z insights is that they are an entirely different kind of shopper. They are digital natives, meaning they are always connected and are extremely comfortable with life taking place online. 

Generation Z Buying Habits

Just because Gen Z is comfortable in an omnichannel digital platform doesn’t mean they don’t want more traditional experiences when it comes to shopping. They prefer a combination of both digital and brick-and-mortar experiences. They are enamored with major technology and social media brands, but also enjoy in-person shopping.

Gen Z buying is often a two-part process, which requires a strategy for any food and beverage business targeting this demographic. Gen Z’s shopping habits usually start online. They’ll research and discover future purchases either through web browsing or social media. They may follow brands for a while, interacting with campaigns that market to Gen Z.

Then, they’ll make the majority of their purchases in a brick-and-mortar store. This is especially true of Gen Z women. This is where Generation Z buying habits stand out compared to older people:

  • 62% of Gen Zers shop in brick-and-mortar
  • 50% of Millennials do
  • 60% of all other generations do

The reason? Gen Z has a lower rate of credit card ownership than other generations. Instead of focusing on the ease of online ordering and delivery, this generation wants to purchase unique items made by unique brands. When it comes to marketing, create an e-commerce, digital marketing strategy that drives in-store traffic. when it comes to marketing

One way to do this is through some new digital platforms like Twitch and other video game streaming services, which have high engagement levels among Gen Z. Consider: 64% of boys aged13 to 17 watch and play gaming content, like Fortnite. These emerging platforms present significant opportunities for deepening a brand’s connection with this generation.

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Marketing Tips for Gen Z Consumers

Wondering what we mean when we said that Gen Z is always connected? Research shows that 74% of this demographic spends five hours or more a day, every day, online. During that time, 46% will research items they desire on their mobile devices before purchasing. 

When they consider buying something, be it Gen Z foods or Gen Z flavors, 63% prefer to get their information not from direct advertisements, but instead through endorsements by both real people and celebrities. 

But don’t expect them to be patient as they collect information about everything from footwear to Gen Z beverages. Sixty percent of Gen Z shoppers won’t use apps or websites that load slowly or are difficult to navigate. Most will also hang up the phone if it’s not answered within 45 seconds.

Along with getting the technology right, marketers should also ensure they’re telling the story behind their product or service. Brands should:

  • Make the world a better place
  • Be inclusive of political beliefs and environmentalism
  • Stay positive
  • Honor celebrity qualities of activists
  • Focus on realism and authenticity
  • Not forget about price

Loyal to Ideas, Not Brands

As food and beverage industries learn about Gen Z flavor preferences, remember that this demographic doesn’t like to be put into boxes. Marketing should never be gendered; even Disney removed gender designations from Halloween costumes to meet the preferences of this important generation.

If you miss the mark, they’ll let you know. Thirty-four percent of Gen Z young adults have mocked brands in the past year for political reasons, compared to just 26% of Millennials. Don’t think they are brand loyal, either. They know that brands help shape the world, but only 50% are faithful to a particular brand. Of other adults, 61% say they are loyal to brands. 

According to Brand Intelligence, Morning Consult’s flagship brand tracking program, the most beloved food brands for Gen Z are:

  • Oreo
  • Doritos
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Pizza Hut
  • Dunkin’
  • Skittles
  • Subway
  • IHOP

Now, Doritos might offer Generation Z flavors. Still, marketing strategy plays an important role: the company removed its logo from its packaging to appeal to the ad-averse Gen Z buyers. Instead, they offer snack lovers an augmented reality Snapchat Lens to turn their faces into the triangular shape of the popular snack.

Bottom Line: Price and Inclusivity

Whether a marketer is designing the next Gen Z beverages or a new clothing line, it’s important to stay focused on price and inclusivity to attract this young generation. Products and services need to be affordable as well as available to anyone interested in purchasing. 

For example, Target is unveiling three new brands of clothing and tech. The products are relatively low-cost, and the clothing is offered in various sizes. 

To succeed with Gen Z, brands must leverage social media, direct-to-consumer marketing, digital content, and in-store experiences. Following trends, such as vegetarianism, sustainability, and fun, will help businesses stay above the noise and earn the buying power of the future.

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