Those looking to respond to trends in food would do well to look at the behaviour of new generations. Previously, we investigated the world of millennials together with Hans Steenbergen, trend watcher and editor-in-chief at Food Inspiration magazine. This time we are looking ahead to the behaviour and future choices and needs of Generation Z. Steenbergen also shares tips on how to appeal to this young consumer group born between 1996 and 2010.
Generation Z is the first generation to have grown up with a smartphone. “And what’s more, internet is one of the basic needs of Generation Z. They go to bed with it and get up with it.”, says Steenbergen. The desire to always be online is much stronger in Generation Z than in millennials. “Millennials didn't have mobile phones in their formative years, they had to consciously seek out a moment to go online on a desktop computer, which was often shared with the rest of the family. Generation Z doesn't know any better than always having access to the internet, everywhere they go.”
Another important difference that Steenbergen has noticed is that Generation Z mainly gathers their information from videos. “Generation Z uses YouTube more often than Google as a search engine. Whereas millennials are still relatively text-oriented, Generation Z can hardly be reached through any other medium than video.” According to Steenbergen, communicating with Generation Z is quite a challenge as a company. “Generation Z is the generation of instant gratification. They no longer have any patience. They are looking for an instant response to their questions or complaints. All information should be available immediately.”
Busy schedules and solo dining
According to a study by Google Food*, Generation Z is raised in families with increasingly busy schedules and less time. This doesn't just apply to both working parents, but also to the children themselves. In addition to school, Generation Z has a busy schedule with all kinds of activities. “As a consequence, family meals at the dining room table are becoming rare and Generation Z is developing individual eating habits. Families share fewer meals, especially on weekdays. Children heat up their own plate or make their own food.” The countermovement anticipated by Steenbergen is that being together will become more important and be valued more highly but will be moved to the weekend. “Whereas weekdays are all about functional food, think of small meals and snacks on the go that are mainly consumed individually, the weekends are all about luxury and spending time together.” A study by Google Food* has shown that Sunday meals will become the most important meals in many families.
For companies looking to respond to the trends in food, Steenbergen advises looking closely at this young generation and their families. Generation Z might not be doing their own groceries at the moment, but that will change in a few years. “As a retailer you can already appeal to busy families with Generation Z children. Offer easy meals, a wide selection of to-go products and responsible individual portions. Or provide a readymade dinner package for the entire family with four different meals, something for everybody. The foodservice sector could concentrate more on underlining that feeling of togetherness. Think of complete meal options for weekends with the whole family. Bakeries could choose to open on Sunday morning and benefit from the popularity of the Sunday brunch. Or offer well-filled picnic baskets with a wide selection of breakfast or lunch items for the whole family, for example.”
Old habits die hard
When it comes to health awareness Steenbergen doesn't anticipate much difference between millennials and Generation Z. “Generation Z will adopt their parents’ critical approach to food and drink in future choices. Subjects such as sugars, fast food, sustainability and the consumption of, for example, meat are hot topics nowadays. That is a message that Generation Z will take from their upbringing.” Steenbergen also expects an increasing number of new developments in the battle against obesity and ‘Western’ diseases that will help Generation Z make food choices that contribute to a healthier, more creative, and more diverse diet
You might also be interested in our article about millennials, the group of consumers born between 1980 and 2000.
* This research was presented in January 2018 by Michiel Bakker, director of Google Food, during Horecava, an annual Dutch hospitality trade fair held in Amsterdam. The insights of the research are based on the global search queries in the Google search engine.