- Generation Z is looking for bold flavor profiles and extreme sensations from authentic — but less adventurous — flavor combinations than millennials, according to Food Business News.
- Personalization, mocktails, regional barbecue flavors and nuanced versions of classic standbys are other trends that Generation Z — those born between 1995 and 2010 — is pushing to the forefront.
- “What we see is it tends to be a familiar flavor or a bold flavor like a spice, a sour, a sweet, but not too far-reaching. Maybe it’s just that flavor combination in a new format. …With Gen Z, it’s a little bit on the safer side of combinations,” Sarah Diedrich, customer marketing manager at Synergy Flavors, Inc told Food Business News.
With Generation Z set to be the largest and most ethnically diverse generation yet, forward-thinking manufacturers are beginning to look seriously at catering to them. Gen Zers account for between $29 billion and $143 billion in direct spending, according to Forbes. Nielsen reports Gen Z now makes up 26% of the U.S. population.
At first glance, this generation appears to have some similarities to millennials, demanding authenticity, social responsibility, ethnic flavors and nuanced classics — specifics like Tahitian Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate. Companies have taken notice and are working to reorient their product portfolios to cater to both of these groups.
However, these demographic groups vary widely enough that manufacturers should take notice of them individually. Similar to millennials, Gen Zers are attracted to easy-to-prepare meals and snacks, but with a caveat. Gen Zers want more organic and natural foods, and food without additives. They are more likely to be vegetarians, according to a new report from Packaged Facts.
Even more strikingly, Generation Z is looking for personalization in food as an expression of who they are, according to a report from The NPD Group. This could be an extension of maturing with social media in hand, where food is expected to be not only Instagrammable, but also a reflection of a person — from their ethos to the mood that they happen to be in that day.
Furthermore, alcoholic beverages seem to be on the chopping block with Generation Z consuming less alcohol than previous generations, catalyzing the advent of RTD cocktails without the buzz.
Manufacturers are beginning to note the difference between these two generations. But with the oldest Gen Zers almost 25, companies should take a more serious look at their preferences and offering this generation what they’re asking for. Already, some have.
In response to a clear preference for clean, health-conscious brands, PepsiCo launched a premium soda line in 2016 made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. The company also produces cane-sugar-based craft soda lines such as Stubborn Soda and Caleb's Kola. In 2015, Kraft Heinz removed artificial flavors and colors from its Kraft Mac and Cheese. In 2016, Campbell Soup debuted a clean label farmers market version of its Prego sauce made with simple ingredients.
Though Generation Z is grabbing the attention of manufacturers, it is going to be a careful balance for companies to cater to them and millennials. Both of these younger generations have different priorities. Millennials are more likely to be raising families and showing greater interest in nostalgic products — which are often sugary sweet and less than good for you. In fact, General Mills found itself caught in the crosshairs of these generational demands after it reformulated Trix without artificial colors and flavors. Consumer uproar — mainly from millennials — led the company to bring back the classic Trix cereal, artificial colors and all.
This generational divide could possibly be an opportunity for companies to manufacture two versions of products to test preferences for certain formulations. Although costly, this may prove to be an effective avenue to crowdsource data that could then inform future product launches that will please both generations simultaneously. Alternatively, manufacturers could simply maintain their current product lines and strategically add new options that would evolve to appeal to the newest generation.