For dairy and many other food categories, a lot of attention is placed on the needs and wants of Generation Z, or Gen Z. This group of young people born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s represents our future consumers.
A recent study by research group Ketchum found that making food choices creates stress for members of Gen Z. In a survey of 2,000 people, 61% said they have felt pressure on them since childhood to eat a certain way to communicate their identity and beliefs. Of the participants, 63% believe their food choices need to signal their health, values, and political beliefs, but this draw to make a statement with their food choices is not reflected in their purchases.
The respondents said that sustainability, animal welfare, and LGBTQ rights were important factors in food decisions, but they did not drive their purchases. For example, 76% of the respondents said that sustainability is an important factor when making a food purchase, but only 16% looked for sustainably sourced ingredients on the label of foods they might purchase. Animal welfare was an important value for 72% of the participants, but just 5% said that animal welfare affected their eating patterns.
Instead, taste, value, and affordability are more likely to influence their buying decisions. But this leads to more guilt, as 62% felt their eating pattern is wrong. Gen Z is more likely than other generations to say that food makes them feel guilty, anxious, uncomfortable, or stressed, and they are the least likely generation to say they have a positive relationship with food, according to the survey.
They also have some questions about the food system overall. In the survey, 73% think that food companies are greedy, and 72% think the food system is broken. About two-thirds said they can’t find information about how their food is raised, and 42% felt that food companies don’t understand them.
Even with these concerns and doubts, that doesn’t mean that Gen Z is not taking their own eating path. In the survey, 68% said they cook differently than their parents did, and 55% follow the newer trend of piecing together snacks as a meal.
Although 67% of survey respondents shared concern that they spend too much time on social media and 58% believed social media contributed to a negative body image, they do use the internet for food inspiration. Seventy percent follow food influencers for ideas and are more willing to trust a food trend that went viral. Their main sources of recipes and ideas come from TikTok (46%), family members (45%) and YouTube (37%). These sources of inspiration are important for food companies to take into consideration when marketing to this age group.