There are currently over 80 million Americans born between 1995 and 2010. With more than $44 billion in purchasing power already , they are emerging as the most important demographic to watch. The food industry is sitting up and taking notice.
Gen Z-ers stand apart from their predecessors for their significantly heightened sense of environmental and social responsibility. They seek out food and ingredients that are responsibly sourced and cruelty-free. The rise in popularity of free-range ingredients can be directly attributed to them.
The increasing diversity of the communities in which they live has broadened their palate, too. Gen Z considers Asian and Mexican dishes mainstream, and enjoying food from multiple countries every day is unremarkable. Additionally, Indian food is becoming popular because of the diversity of the vegetarian options it offers.
We can already see how Gen Z’s demands have prompted changes in the restaurant industry. Even fast food chains like Burger King have introduced vegan and vegetarian options. Meanwhile, there has been an explosion in demand for plant-based meat substitutes. It is driven by those who still crave the sensation of biting into meat but cannot bring themselves to eat real meat.
Some of the impetus for a meat-free diet comes from a desire for healthier food, too. Red meat’s association with cancer is also prompting many Gen Z-ers to choose white meat and fish or go meat-free altogether.
Another major change in the food industry with regards to Gen Z is in how products and services are marketed to them. Recognizing that Gen Z is virtually addicted to mobile devices, digital engagement and interaction have come to the forefront.
This has evolved beyond the traditional online ad to advertising through social media, driven by Gen Z’s propensity for social approval. Community platforms where they can read and post reviews are very popular. Apps like Instagram have emerged as some of the most potent food marketing channels.
One of the key traits of Gen Z is its desire for instant gratification. Restaurants big and small are jumping on the bandwagon to provide home delivery. This has inspired a slew of food delivery apps that do the job even better.
Gen Z is also fiscally conservative and loves bargains and giveaways. Restaurants and delivery apps that offer promotions and discounts together with smaller portions and snack options have an edge over those that do not.
Gen Z is still in the process of finding its feet in the world. These shifts in consumer behavior, though, are here for the long run because the subsequent generation will pick up on the same vibes. Businesses that embrace digital interaction and those that cater to Gen Z’s palate will find themselves with a distinct advantage.