Side view close up of a young mixed race woman standing by a window and looking out holding a cup of coffee

By Signe Svanfeldt, Lead Nutritionist at Lifesum

Did you know that what you eat can significantly impact your mental wellbeing? It’s not widely known, but it’s true. 

A nutritious, balanced diet doesn’t just affect our physical health; it also plays a crucial role in our energy levels, mood, and even the health of our gut microbiota, which in turn influences our mental wellbeing.

Recognizing the connection between diet and mental health is crucial for food and drink manufacturers aiming to attract Gen Z consumers.

Economic implications of poor mental health

The economic implications of diet-related mental health issues are significant. 

In the UK, poor mental health costs the economy £102 billion, while in the US, it amounts to $193.2 billion. Globally, the economic burden reaches a staggering $1 trillion

These figures underscore the importance of addressing the link between diet and mental wellbeing on both individual and societal levels.

Why mental health is so important to Gen Z

Mental health among Gen Z is significant and influenced by various factors, crucial for food and drink manufacturers to understand when targeting this demographic.

Gen Z faces a distinct and growing list of stressors, from academic demands and financial instability to social media comparisons and global concerns like climate change, all of which profoundly affect their mental wellbeing.

According to an American Psychological Association report, Gen Z is more likely to report mental health concerns than any other demographic group. They actively champion mental health awareness and destigmatization, fostering a culture that prioritizes and encourages mental wellbeing.

Being digital natives, Gen Z has been raised in a world saturated with social media and technology. While these platforms provide avenues for connectivity and self-expression, they also expose Gen Z to cyberbullying, online harassment and unattainable beauty ideals, all of which compound mental health issues.

Mental health challenges can also significantly affect workplace satisfaction and productivity. In a recent Lifesum survey, a staggering 81% of respondents expressed willingness to leave their jobs due to stress, with 48% citing work-related stress as negatively impacting their personal lives.

Appealing to Gen Z with mental health product strategies

To align their products with the preferences of Gen Z consumers, manufacturers must focus on developing products that highlight mental health benefits. 

Gen Z prefers health-conscious choices, often favoring products with ingredients known to positively impact mood, cognition, and overall mental health. 

Our 2024 State of Healthy Eating and Wellbeing Report highlights that Gen Z actively seeks out functional foods that offer specific health benefits. According to the report, 61% of individuals consume functional foods to enhance mental wellbeing, 73% to boost energy levels, and 40% to promote better sleep.

By developing mental health-boosting products rich in vitamins, minerals, and made from natural, whole ingredients while avoiding artificial additives, colors, and preservatives, manufacturers can appeal to Gen Z.

Gen Z is highly attuned to authenticity, transparency, and honesty — and actively seeks out food brands that not only provide nourishment but also support their emotional wellbeing. According to YPulse data, 71% of Gen Z like it when brands make mental health a part of their marketing.

Food and drink manufacturers can uphold transparency and authenticity through several avenues. This includes clearly labeling packaging with details about mental health benefits, offering educational content on their social media platforms regarding the specific mental health advantages of ingredients in their products, and seeking endorsements from mental health organizations to validate these benefits. 

For food manufacturers, acknowledging the correlation between diet and mental health unveils avenues for innovation and product development. 

From brain supplements that boost cognitive function to mushroom drinks that alleviate stress, manufacturers can effectively meet the evolving demands of Gen Z. And it’s a sector that’s experiencing healthy growth. In fact, Lifesum predicts that the global mushroom coffee market specifically will grow at an annual rate of 5.5% from 2024 to 2030.

By acknowledging the influence of diet on mental health, and the mental health concerns of Gen Z, manufacturers can establish credibility with this demographic by offering products that resonate with their values and way of life. This will enable brands to attract, engage, and retain Gen Z customers; drive business success; and create a society where this demographic can thrive.

Signe Svanfeldt is a distinguished registered nutritionist and food science specialist, serving as Lifesum’s esteemed Lead Nutritionist. With a wealth of expertise, Signe is passionately committed to assisting individuals in making informed, health-conscious dietary choices, fostering a culture of vitality and longevity.


Supplier Catalog -