U.S. consumers between the ages of 11 and 22 have already started shaping food and beverage trends because of the healthier influences they grew up with, according to a Mintel presentation at IFT2018 reported by Food Navigator.
Many kids and teens tend to see soda as unhealthy after their parents nixed sugary food and drink options, Mintel research showed. One-quarter of teens between 15 and 17 years of age said they're concerned about remaining healthy, and almost half (49%) believe that drinking sodas is not healthy.
"Generation Z has come of age at a time when health and wellness is a major consideration. Many younger members of Generation Z follow their parents' healthy ways and it seems health-consciousness only gets stronger as they approach adulthood," Dana Macke, Mintel's associate director of Lifestyles and Leisure Reports, said during the presentation.
While there is some crossover, Generation Z differs from millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers by looking for personalization in food as an expression of who they are. They like ethnic food, natural and clean-label products and brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping — although they also use social media platforms to engage with brands. According to Mintel, Gen Zers also like to test international recipes at home more than older generations.
Even though many Generation Z consumers are young, their shopping and consuming habits may be more likely to stay the same as they get older since they were influenced by their parents from a very early age toward health and wellness products. Chances are they will continue to seek out transparent, clean-label brands as they make purchasing decisions as heads of households.
Soda manufacturers might take note now that Gen Zers are consuming less sugar-laden soft drinks. However, this demographic may be interested in the low- and no-sugar offerings soda firms are introducing, as well as some healthier cereals and clean-label snack items.
Major CPG companies such as General Mills and Kellogg that are debuting cereal loaded with sugar could face challenges as Gen Zers come of age. They may be less likely to buy these items, let alone purchase them for their own kids. If they haven't already, it might be wise for food and beverage makers to take a close look at their formulations and change anything that has high fructose corn syrup to cane sugar, for example, and phase out artificial colors and flavors. If nothing else, CPG companies could look for ways, when possible, to offer consumers choice.
General Mills did just that after consumers shunned a new version of its popular Trix cereal without artificial colors and flavors. The Minneapolis company kept the reformulated version and brought back the original to store shelves last fall.
Those manufacturers that have already cleaned up their labels, come out with healthier energy drinks and/or debuted sparkling waters and functional snack foods could be in a good position when the Generation Z demographic comes of age. 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 to cater to health-conscious shoppers.
The bottom line is that food and beverage companies have a lot to gain by paying attention to this demographic. That's because Gen Zers account for between $29 billion and $143 billion in direct spending, according to Forbes, while Nielsen reports that Generation Z now makes up 26% of the U.S. population.