Adorable Black Father And Daughter Baking Together, Using Digita
Adorable black father and daughter baking together, using digital tablet

The youngest generation may still be coming into the world, but they’re already influencing household decisions, even asking for their favorite foods by brand name, according to a new report from Morning Consult

Based on the results of parent surveys and representative samples, “A Brand’s Guide to Gen Alpha” takes an in-depth look at how this generation differs from others, how their parents are raising them, and what brands need to know about their impact on household purchasing. 

Introducing the first true digital natives 

Born between 2010 and 2025, the newest generation is growing up during a global pandemic and economic challenges. Their parents are most likely to be Millennials (70%), who share concerns about keeping their children safe and their families stable and worry that their children’s mental health will be worse than that of other generations. 

But Gen Alpha is also growing alongside significant tech breakthroughs that are changing how we interact with the world. “Gen Alpha is the first truly digitally native generation,” said Jordan Marlatt, Tech Analyst at Morning Consult, in an April 12 webinar on the new report. “They’re growing up with internet services and devices that previous generations just didn’t have.”

More than half (54%) of Alphas own a tablet, and their daily lives include some amount of screen time that increases with age — at four years and under, most (38%) are spending an hour or two online each day, but by the age of 10, more than half are spending three to six hours online. 

What are they doing with their screen time? Most likely, they’re streaming video, with the most popular streaming services being YouTube and Disney+, playing online games, or chatting with friends. 

Gen Alpha may also fuel the future of the metaverse. According to Morning Consult’s research, 1 in 10 Gen Alpha children own a virtual reality (VR) headset, 26% are in a household that has one, and 17% of Gen Alpha parents with VR headsets reported that their children use them more than seven hours a day. “This is the first generation to grow up with this technology in a noteworthy way,” Marlatt added. “That opens the door for potential metaverse opportunities down the line.” 

And it could shape their search for brand experiences, said Michelle Gansle, Vice President of Global Insights & Analytics at McDonald’s. “Gen Alphas don’t just want to consume stories, they want to be the center of the story. They want to have immersive connections. And that’s one thing that VR does, so VR will influence the way that we interact with them in the future.”

Offering more choice can complicate mealtime

“Alphas are growing up with a lot of choices,” Emily Moquin, Morning Consult’s Food & Beverage Analyst, said in the webinar. 

Alpha parents are involving their children in a lot of household decisions, encouraging them to think independently and develop a sense of self-worth. And food is one of the first areas where children make choices. “It is an area where parents are willing to give kids some autonomy and let them start to build those decision making skills,” Moquin said. 

But this freedom of choice can make meal times challenging, with 28% of Alpha parents reporting that they eat different foods than their children at dinner. While dietary limitations can play into this, these parents appreciate easy, convenient ways to offer options at mealtime.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that restaurant visits and take out occasions are common in households with Gen Alpha children. Even though many Alpha parents feel it’s very important to limit fast food intake (36%) and dining at restaurants (25%), 43% report that their children eat fast food at least weekly and 20% eat out at restaurants at least once a week. 

Still, helping their kids develop healthy diet habits is a priority for parents. They listed the following as most important when deciding what food and drinks their children consume: 

  • Eating fruits and vegetables (66%)
  • Eating fresh foods (53%)
  • Eating a variety of foods (53%) 
  • Limiting sugary drinks (46%)
  • Limiting sugar consumption (39%)

Asking for favorite foods by brand name

Morning Consult’s research found that Alphas are asking for specific brands and already have their favorites, especially when it comes to the foods they eat. 

Roughly 40% of parents said their children ask for specific brands of groceries and snacks. Though parents reported a wide variety of brand names their kids requested, Goldfish, Cheetos, and Doritos were among the most frequently mentioned brands. 

How can brands get their name out there? Being digitally influenced, Alphas are getting a lot of their purchasing ideas from the content they stream. More than half (56%) of Alpha parents said their children watch shopping content like haul and unboxing content — this includes 48% of parents with kids ages 4 and under. So even from a very young age, they’re learning about brands and products and how they compare to others in the market. 

“This generation has access to all this information and they’re doing their own research,” Marlatt said. This means that, as they grow, they’ll be more informed about their purchasing decisions.

Alphas have a strong, direct connection to influencers, added Joanna Piacenza, Head of Industry Intelligence at Morning Consult. “There’s so much more of an intimate connection that Alphas are creating really, really young with people they see online, even more so than Gen Z.” Later on in life, they’re likely to spend more in partnerships with the brands and influencers they follow.

Associating food with comfort and memory

But it’s not just what they see online that shapes Gen Alpha’s brand preferences. They’re still influenced in other ways, such as by what they see in stores (74% for ages 0 to 4 and 85% for ages 5 to 9) and by what they learn from friends and family (49% to 65%, depending on age). 

Food and beverage brands, in particular, will always resonate strongly with children, given that there are so many opportunities to interact with them on a daily basis. Parents may even pass down brand favorites from their own childhood memories, continuing traditions and creating positive brand associations for their children.

Growing up in a pandemic has also emphasized the idea of food as comfort for Gen Alpha. Gansle added that “kids, like adults, are looking for familiarity and comfort, especially in times of stress. Kids choosing a brand might be a signal that they’re looking for something that’s comforting and secure.”

Food is very cultural and social, Moquin added. “We turn to food for everything […] and kids pick up on that from a very young age.”  

For more insights into what sets Gen Alpha apart from previous generations, download Morning Consult’s full report.

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