The food-buying habits of Millennials, with their accompanying effects on the food industry, have received a lot of attention. Now a new generation is set to bring more change. Called Post-Millennials, iGeneration (iGen), or Generation Z (Gen Z), these young people born from 1997 to 2012 are now ages 6 to 21. They number more than 61 million in the U.S.

Who is Gen Z?

Generation Z is the most diverse, digitally connected, and socially and politically aware and engaged generation to date, according to research from The Hartman Group.

A Pew Research demographic report provides more details about this new generation, including:

  • Almost half of Gen Z is racial or ethnic minorities and 25% are Hispanic.
  • Most of Gen Z live in metropolitan areas, with only 13% living in rural areas, the lowest of any young generation to date.
  • Gen Z is more likely to live with a college-educated parent than were Millennials. Plus, this new generation lives in households with higher household median income than did any previous generation at that age.
  • More of Gen Z ages 18–20 are attending college than did either Millennials or Generation X. Plus, the high school dropout rate is much lower than it was for Millennials ages 18–20 in 2002. With more of Gen Z in college, fewer of them are in the workforce than were Millennials at that age.

Healthy eating (sometimes) and international tastes

The trend toward healthy eating is filtering into the lives of Gen Z, who are coming of age when health and wellness is front of mind for many people, according to a Mintel presentation. “Many younger members of Generation Z follow their parents’ healthy ways and it seems health-consciousness only gets stronger as they approach adulthood,” said Dana Macke, Mintel’s Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure Reports, during the presentation.

However, The Hartman Group finds Gen Z less motivated by health and wellness than Millennials. Hartman does note today’s teenagers are more educated about health and wellness than any previous teen group. They just don’t yet have the health concerns that motivate them to always want to put that knowledge into action.

Another interesting Hartman finding is that as junior high students move through high school, they become more likely to eat plant-based meals. Hartman believes this trend bodes well for continued growth in plant-based foods.

Generation Z is also expanding on the Millennial trend for international food, according to Mintel. In the company’s research, 36% of parents of kids under the age of 18 said their children like to eat international foods. For Gen Z ages 18–22, 62% said they use recipes from social media to cook international foods. That’s in contrast to 46% of Millennials and 23% of Generation X (ages 41–52).

Opportunities for food companies

Both Mintel and The Hartman Group found growing up in the digital age with information at their fingertips has given many of Gen Z a do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude in the kitchen. Mintel believes food and beverage brands can leverage this mindset by offering DIY experiences that will help Gen Z become more creative and self-reliant in the kitchen.

Because younger members of Gen Z still live at home and mostly depend on their parents for food purchases, they usually have no brand allegiance, except for a few classic brands such as Oreos, according to The Hartman Group. By looking at the information available about Gen Z, food companies have the opportunity to develop products and create brand loyalty that carries into adulthood for this up and coming generation.

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