Gen Z consumers favor all-day breakfast meal concepts, according to the School Meal Innovation Lab initiative, produced by Y-Pulse, Chicago.

In this study, 900 K-12 students evaluated 10 new menu concepts created by a team of chefs and dietitians that met school meal nutritional requirements. The study's participants evaluated these menu concepts through photographs and menu descriptions, but did not know that these meals met school foodservice guidelines. The meal concepts rated the highest are Overnight Oatmeal (64%), Banana Berry Smoothie (77%) and Tex-Mex Breakfast Bowl (61%).

"While we introduced a variety of menu concepts, it was interesting to see that the kids really gravitated toward items that were great for all-day breakfast, brunch and snacking," says Sharon Olson, executive director. "Today's kids' interest in all-day breakfast and snacking shows us that this is an area operators should pay close attention to in the years to come."

The School Meal Innovation Lab initiative began in 2014, and is designed to provide a glimpse into the under 18 consumer's tastes and culinary preferences.  


Consumers between ages 8-18 showed that they consistently liked items that are easy to eat on the go. The Overnight Oatmeal and Banana Berry Smoothie were served in handy containers that were easy to hold and carry around. The Tex-Mex Breakfast Bowl was also served in a transportable bowl that was convenient to eat on the go.

Healthy halo

Along with enjoying foods that are both familiar and adventurous, Gen Z consumers show inclination toward foods perceived as healthy. All of the top menu concepts included ingredients that were easy to identify and were perceived to be healthy. The ingredients were also clearly communicated in menu names and descriptions. For instance, the Overnight Oatmeal included oatmeal in its name and fruit, milk and yogurt in its description. The Banana Berry Smoothie's name highlighted the fruits it contained and its menu description included milk and homemade granola. The Tex-Mex Breakfast Bowl's menu description used key words like eggs, cheese, beans and roasted vegetables.

Familiar with a twist

The study's respondents between ages of 8-18 showed that they liked familiar ingredients presented with a culinary twist. With Overnight Oatmeal, a familiar breakfast staple was served cold instead of hot and grab-and-go was encouraged. The Banana Berry Smoothie was given a different texture with the addition of granola topping. With the Tex-Mex Breakfast Bowl, a familiar meal of eggs was given a different flavor combination by using Mexican ingredients and spices.

Knowing how to present and communicate food to young consumers is a vital element to earning their customer loyalty in future years. Merchandising, as well as sampling, will play a key role for operators interested in appealing to kids.