Gen Z is set to rock the food industry as they gain independence, according to Hartman Group’s Gen Z 2018 Report. And considering these 12 to 20-year-olds contribute $143 billion in direct spending, it’s critical to understand what influences their food purchasing choices.

Food purchasing and eating habits  

Gen Z still has youth on their side. So when it comes to food, teens and young adults:

  • Rely on parents to grocery shop and foot restaurant bills
  • Prioritize fun and flavor over nutrition
  • Spend most food money on snacks, beverages, and sweets
  • Shop at convenience stores and vending machines

At this point in their lives, kids are still able to take advantage of high metabolisms and active lifestyles. However, that doesn’t mean they make unhealthy choices 100% of the time. Thanks to initiatives on improving meal plans in schools, many Gen Zs do have access to — and consciously choose — healthy options in the cafeteria and on college campuses. They’re also extremely educated about health and wellness, which will likely influence purchasing decisions when they’re older.

Confidence in the kitchen

Cooking is no longer a skill just passed down by the previous generation or taught in home economics. Anyone with an internet connection can learn anything from how to boil an egg to how to make the perfect soufflé. Since Gen Zs are digital natives, they possess natural confidence behind the counter.

The generation does have to fit eating between classes, sports, and other extracurriculars, so they do much of their own meal prep and eat solo (except for dinner). With a simpler palate than their predecessors, chances are they’re whipping up dishes like chicken salads instead of fig and prosciutto ravioli.

Prepare for the future now

Growing up in an era of extreme political divisiveness, economic recovery, and environmental awareness — all experienced through the screen of a smartphone — has given Gen Z a worldview guaranteed to impact their purchasing decisions. They’re smart, connected, and aware, with practicality being the name of the game.  

The food industry needs to prepare for this generation’s demands now. Use these key takeaways to guide your decisions on how to cater to Gen Z.

  • Teens and young adults reach for snacks, blurring the line between snacktime and mealtime.
  • Since Gen Z doesn’t have a fully developed opinion on brands quite yet, companies telling compelling stories on social media will see success with this age group in the future.  
  • Gen Z will likely adopt online grocery shopping and delivery.
  • Health and wellness will become more of a priority as Gen Z ages.

Related reading: Hershey’s, Oreo, and M&M’s Named “Most Trustworthy Brands” by Millennials and Gen Z