The food industry is undergoing constant innovation across nearly every category, and often, it is consumers driving these changes.
Today’s shoppers have certainly made their voice heard in more (and newer) ways. This direct feedback has captured the attention of a number of brands, and those who listen to today’s consumers and emerging demographics will be well positioned to lead as the industry changes. Millennials and Baby Boomers are making the purchasing decisions that drive trends across grocery retailers. However, the upcoming generation of decision-makers—Gen Z—is one to watch, as they steer conversation across the industry.
Gen Z is assumed to be more educated about cultural, social, political and foodie topics than the generations preceding them. Organizations that haven’t yet considered how to speak to Gen Z consumers risk being left behind amidst the rush of brands hurrying to meet these young consumers.
The young people currently between the ages of 12-20 that make up Gen Z are considered to be the most diverse and connected in U.S. history, and this is expected to have a major impact on their food and lifestyle choices. Knowing the impact this generation will have in the near future, consider four ways to get ahead of their needs.
- Appeal to each decision-maker in the family.
Because much of Gen Z is made up of tweens and teens, the majority are still relying on their parents to make purchasing decisions at the grocery store. While Gen Z is influencing these purchasing decisions, their Gen X parents call the final shots at checkout. Understanding this can help to direct some of your consumer messaging.
Gen X parents have encouraged healthy eating patterns, and Gen Z students were raised in classrooms that promoted wellness. This bend toward healthier-for-you foods is not simply a trend, but a way of life. Whereas Millennials helped to renegade the movement for “clean” foods, upcoming generations expect more. While “clean,” simple and wholesome ingredients remain an indicator for healthier food, many Gen Z consumers are also acutely aware of sugar content, as promoted by their parents.
What to do: Appeal to both Gen Z and their parents by examining the sugar content in your products. Can you lower that amount or reformulate to a natural source? If your product is low in added sugar, highlight that in the packaging and call out the better-for-you nutrients your product offers.
- Educate to cut through social media noise.
Gen Z is extremely connected via their social platforms, and digital communication is second nature to these young consumers. These consumers are already inundated with advertising and branded messaging across platforms and devices, so brands that lead will need to cut through the noise to reach Gen Z.
What to do: Provide content that doubles as an educational resource while it helps promote the brand. Educate through content marketing and engage with Gen Z on social media rather than just sending out 1-sided promotional content. Use visual content that makes it easy to grab and hold attention. These visuals will also lend themselves to social sharing. Make your brand a valuable partner for shoppers looking for ways to enhance their lives.
- Position your brand as one that promotes self-expression.
Similar to Millennials who put a high emphasis on food as a form of self-expression, Gen Z also views food as more than a means to an end. For these young consumers, food is personal and a reflection of their values. Therefore, Gen Z shoppers look for brands that connect with them on a personal level and that represent them to the world.
What to do: Bring a greater sense of authenticity to your brand, identifying the people behind the manufacturing and production processes, defining how your food makes its way from the farm to the grocery shelf and speaking to consumers with more personality. Brands that found the most success with this idea of personalization have made increased efforts to remove the mystery from their production processes.
For example, organizations like NestFresh, Denver, Colo., don’t just talk about their eggs; they know focusing on the families and animals that make up the farms and produce the eggs are just as important to the educated, interested consumer. Images, video and stories from the farms are a core part of NestFresh’s storytelling because they clearly illustrate the difference in the brand’s production practices and help consumers connect to the brand.
- Make it easy to be experimental in the kitchen.
Gen Z may not be doing the household shopping at present, but they are well versed in the kitchen. Busy families with working parents, as well as technology, help Gen Z become experienced in the kitchen. Experimentation is more accessible with easy-to-watch videos, clickable recipes, digital cookbooks and online cooking tutorials.
Categories like the egg category are ideal for recipe content marketing. Positioned as a natural, versatile and accessible go-to ingredient in creating any type of dish – from complex pastries to ethnic entrées – eggs and other ingredients can make the most of Gen Z’s affinity for foodie culture.
What to do: Speak to the desire to be in the kitchen with recipes that demonstrate how to use your food. Spark creativity and respond to a craving for unique food experiences with content that uses your product in new and different ways.
Gen Z teens are poised to impact the food industry in a way that rivals the movements initiated by generations before them. In addition to being more aware of the issues of today, they are determined to remain steadfast in their commitment to quality foods with healthier-for-you attributes that align with the values they have shaped with influence from their parents.
In taking hold of the early conversations happening today, food brands can help to be the architectures of tomorrow’s food industry.