The next generation of American consumers is ethnically diverse, tech-savvy and on the move, according to Technomic's Special Topics Study.

“GEN Z: Decoding the Behaviors of the Next Generation,” produced by Chicago-based Technomic, finds that today’s Generation Z consumers are driven mainly by flavor, and that while their flavor preferences are still relatively simple, they are beginning to show some sophistication. As they mature, they are more influenced by their peers and by digital and traditional media.

"Gen Z is the first generation to experience multi-channel and digital marketing on a daily basis, and almost since birth," says Jackie Rodriguez, senior manager at Technomic. "As older Gen Zers' sphere of influence widens, they still look to outside sources of information rather than making independent decisions. Dining and food choices should be positioned as collaborative and coming from trusted sources."

Some key findings from the study include:

Erratic eaters. Gen Zers are more likely to skip meals altogether than they are to use foodservice at nearly every daypart. Based on the fact that they are usually doing another activity while snacking, like watching TV or listening to music, research suggests there is a lack of enthusiasm for current snack options, presenting an opportunity for foodservice.

Born foodies. Gen Z has been exposed to global food influences and a more holistic approach to health and wellness more than any previous generation. Good-tasting, high-quality, craveable food is by far the strongest driver behind Gen Z restaurant preferences.

Speedy and social. Gen Z consumers value speed and digital engagement from foodservice, but also seek social eating venues and occasions where they can hang out with friends.

Age appropriate. As Gen Zers mature and gain earning power, they view their choices as more independent.

"Gaining Gen Z loyalty takes more effort and a greater understanding of their purchase drivers, but it's worth the extra work because this group is the future of foodservice," Rodriguez says.