It’s no secret that Gen-Zers march to the beat of their own drums — but does that apply to their approach to food?
Who are they?
Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen-Z is the most ethnically diverse generation. They range between the ages of 6 and 24 years old, making up about 68 million people in the United States. They are a generation brought up in a hyper-connected world consumed by smartphones, tablets, social media, and technological conveniences that former generations simply didn’t have. They’ve been privy to the struggles of Millennials and Gen-X which has led them to prioritize health and wellness, racial equity, as well as to adopt a more fiscally conservative approach. Learning about personal finance is important to them and funny enough — their top spending priority? Food.
Social Media Obsessed
While Millennials lead the way in putting value on dining experiences, Gen-Zers aren’t trailing far behind. With smartphones constantly in hand, their connectivity is nothing to be rivaled. With a heavy reliance on tech and social media, much stronger than previous generations — splitting tabs, reviewing menus online in advance, online restaurant reviews, and Insta-worthy restaurants are the new norm. To attract this generation, food and dining establishments need to focus on having an active social media presence that engages these Gen-Z foodies.
Takeout > Dining In
With such a tech-driven lifestyle, it is no surprise to find that Gen-Zers order takeout more than any other generation. Thanks to convenient food-delivery platforms like UberEats, GrubHub, and Postmates, etc., online ordering has become Gen-Z’s best friend in this digital age. Services like this typically charge a premium, but with food being Gen-Z’s top spending priority, it’s easy to understand why they’re willing to pay a little more for convenience and quality food.
Virtue-Driven Dining Experiences
In addition to unique and trendy food experiences, Gen-Zers gravitate towards food that fits within their values. They’re attracted to fresh, organic, locally sourced, and sustainable food from places that are transparent about their ingredients and practices. This is probably correlated to their obsession with technology and having the ability to get instant answers to anything they want to know in real-time. They love authentic, ethnic cuisine and genuinely enjoy submerging themselves in the food experiences of diverse cultures. Understanding how important experiences are to them, it’s easy to see why Gen-Z spends more money on dining experiences than any other category. Additionally, their short attention spans (about 8 seconds, if you can believe it) make fast, casual dining one of their go-to’s. Combine that with mobile ordering and self-service kiosks and you’ve got a game-changer for this digitally dependent generation.
Snacks Over Meals
Gen-Zers have made traditional mealtimes a thing of the past. Thanks to the internet and smartphone era, they have the flexibility to eat almost anything they want whenever they want. They prefer short, quick meals and snacks throughout the day over long, sit-down breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. Whether it’s sandwich wraps, protein shakes, or acai bowls — on-the-go meals seem to accommodate their busy, internet-consumed lifestyles more than traditional meals. According to a study, Gen-Zers are 53 times more likely to consume snacks as meals annually than any other generation.
Unlike other generations, Gen-Z has integrated vegan and vegetarian options into their diets without fully committing to a meatless or plant-based diet. This isn’t much of a surprise after learning how important fresh, healthy ingredients are to them, as well as how open they are to trying different types of food. Veganism isn’t just a passing fad to Gen-Z — it’s been incorporated into their regular diets, in which they also consume meat, coining it a “flexitarian” diet. This has had an evident impact on the restaurant industry, with many unexpected places now catering to vegan and plant-based eaters. There’s no doubt that Gen-Zers played a key role in moving those changes forward.
Cooking at Home
For the most part, Gen-Zers are brought up in busy households to dual working parents. This has caused them to be independent, self-sufficient, and more autonomous than other generations. When it comes to meals, they’ve often had to prepare their own at home. With any recipe being just a YouTube video away, most of Gen-Z enjoys cooking. Whether it’s making a full meal, brewing their own beer, or trying a new recipe with friends — they aren’t intimidated by food prep and see food skills as an accessible life skill to anyone with a wifi connection. With such an avid appreciation for fresh, sustainable food components, they find value in knowing they’re using healthy, quality ingredients in their meals that they themselves purchased and have control over preparing.
Having been born into the foodie culture and social media craze, we are finding that Gen-Z has the potential to be one of the most influential generations on consumers’ eating and drinking behaviors. It’s hard to ignore how their noteworthy eating habits and behaviors continue to revolutionize the food and dining industries today. How do you think the next generation will shape the food game?