Unintentional Foodies, Gen Zs Expect Food Brands to Follow Their Needs, Rather Than the Other Way Around —Flavor, Function, and Authenticity Over Brand and Hype

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Generation Z, those born 1997 to present, now represent 27 percent of the U.S. population, a larger group than Millennials, and although only older Gen Zs are entering adulthood, their impact on the food industry is already being felt, finds a new study by The NPD Group, a leading global information company.

The more I study trends in retailing, foodservice, and eating patterns, the more I become convinced that the macro themes emerging in consumption behavior are generationally driven,” says David Portalatin, NPD and author of Eating Patterns in America.

Generation Z, those born 1997 to present, now represent 27 percent of the U.S. population, a larger group than Millennials, and although only older Gen Zs are entering adulthood, their impact on the food industry is already being felt, finds a new study by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Gen Zs, many of whom were raised by Gen Xers, grew up understanding the purpose of food and how it fits into a well-lived life. As a result this generational cohort has set expectations that food and food brands will follow their needs and not the other way around.

By virtue of their upbringing, Gen Zs are unintentional foodies and were brought up in a culture that talks about, celebrates, and entertains with food, according to the recently release NPD report, Make it Happen for Gen Zs. They are told at an early age what their food can do for them in terms of functional and nutritional value and not just how it tastes, bringing a new definition to the “value” of food. Gen Zs, like the Millennials, prefer food and beverages with transparent labeling and an absence of artificial ingredients; skeptical of big brands and too many label claims, finds the NPD report, which takes a holistic look at the attitudes, behaviors, and voices of Gen Zs.

Growing up with a greater emphasis on flavor and function rather than brand will make Gen Z’s more challenging for food marketers to reach. Like the Millennials, this group wants authenticity and although the term has become synonymous with clean and fresh, it broadens for Gen Zs to include brands that honestly offer experiences, finds CultureWaves®, a firm that monitors emerging consumer behavioral trends and an NPD partner on the Make it Happen for Gen Z report. This tech-savvy generational group who never knew a world without the internet also seeks personalization, engagement, and fluidity, like portable foods, to meet the needs of their busy lives.    

“The more I study trends in retailing, foodservice, and eating patterns, the more I become convinced that the macro themes emerging in consumption behavior are generationally driven,” says David Portalatin, NPD and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Gen Z’s will be a seismic force for the food industry as they emerge into adulthood under more prosperous economic circumstances, yet with their own differentiating set of values.”

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About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group provides market information and business solutions that drive better decision-making and better results. The world’s leading brands rely on us to help them get the right products in the right places for the right people. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, diamonds, e-commerce, entertainment, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, technology, toys, video games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit npd.com and npdgroupblog.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup

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Kim McLynn
The NPD Group
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