Generation Z — the demographic group born between 1995 and 2010 — has helped move U.S. food culture from three sit-down meals a day to several eating experiences throughout. According to a new report from Packaged Facts, members of Gen Z are more likely than millennials to snack between meals and to prepare simple meals when they slow down enough to do so.
"Looking Ahead to Gen Z: Demographic Patterns and Spending Trends" reports households headed by adults younger than 25 are 29% more likely to consume microwaveable dinners and 26% more apt to eat frozen breakfast entrées or sandwiches. In addition, they are 23% more likely to eat frozen dinners and it's 10% more probable they will eat dry packaged dinners, dinner mixes and kits.
"Seemingly perpetually in motion, ubiquitously surrounded by limitless smartphone entertainment options, and frequently willing to work multiple jobs or side gigs, many Gen Z young adults are attracted to easy-to-prepare meals as well as snacking," David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, said in a release. "Therefore, there's exists ample opportunity for food marketers of frozen prepared meals, canned soups, potato chips, and other canned and packaged prepared food such as salads and desserts, to convert adults under the age of 25 into loyal lifelong customers."
Gen Z's dining habits have impacted the food industry by influencing the production of snacks and other convenience items appealing to this on-the-go group. However, the Packaged Facts report noted that even though Gen Z members tend to seek out portable and easy-to-prepare foods, they are also interested in healthy items. Compared to millennials, Gen Zers want more organic and natural foods, and food without additives. They are more likely to be vegetarians, the report said.
More manufacturers are launching healthy snack products because of these trends, which are likely to continue since Gen Z is a particularly active and busy bunch and liable to reach for better-for-you items. Even though many Gen Z consumers are relatively young, their shopping and consuming habits might stay the same as they get older since they were influenced by their parents from an early age to look toward health and wellness products. Chances are they will continue to seek out transparent, clean-label brands as they make purchasing decisions.
While millennials have been credited with recently boosting frozen food sales, Gen Z might well follow in their footsteps, since these products offer ease, convenience and often interesting flavors. According to a SPINS report from 2018, frozen foods with natural, organic, free-from and functional label claims in particular are attracting young people.
Microwavable products are also gaining interest because they're easy to prepare. Barilla has introduced microwaveable pasta pouches for work lunches, after-school snacks or quick at-home dinners when something quick but filling is required. Single-serve cups of microwaveable oatmeal are also an increasingly convenient, healthy and popular choice for Gen Zers in a hurry to prepare and eat something.
The bottom line is that food and beverage companies have a lot to gain by paying attention to this demographic. Gen Zers account for between $29 billion and $143 billion in direct spending, according to Forbes, while Nielsen reports that Gen Z now makes up 26% of the U.S. population. Manufacturers wanting a slice of this action will undoubtedly be looking to introduce more products to accommodate this growing and influential demographic.