Meet Gen Z
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How Gen Z is Driving the Future of Eating

Now buying at a grocery store near you…how the youngest generation is driving the future of eating.

By Kara Nielsen

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Enough about the Millennial generation impacting food trends; it’s time to meet the next influential cohort: Gen Z.

This large, multicultural group is already spurring growth of positive trends in healthful snacks, bold flavors and foods that reflect this generation’s values around the environment and sustainability. As we move into a new decade, count on this savvy, can-do generation to lead the way—with an estimated $44 billion in buying power, according to market-research group NPD.

Gen Zers are 7 to 22 years old and make up 26 percent of the population. The youngest are noshing on nutritious kids’ food and bold snacks from big food brands (think Epic Crunch Goldfish, with flavors like Nacho and Honey BBQ), while the oldest are launching independent lives, learning to shop and cook on their own (hello, frozen meals and snacks). Being digital natives, they turn to online videos to learn how to make just about anything in the kitchen. However, these convenience seekers rely heavily on snack foods, assembling pantry, fridge and freezer favorites to make a meal.

This is an empowered generation, taught from an early age to define themselves and demand foods that meet their dietary needs and flavor preferences or match their values. Food companies are tapping into this power: Kashi invited a team of Gen Z-ers to co-create a new snack, Kashi by Kids Organic Super Food Bites. These whole-grain, bite-sized, crunchy nuggets feature coconut flour, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, berries and chocolate, and come in portable snack packs, a plus for on-the-go eating.

Speaking of on-the-go, portable yogurt drinks, instant hot cereal cups and snack packs of all kinds suit Gen Z-ers. They grew up with parents plying them with snack-sized everything in school, at playdates and after sports practices. They are used to nibbling and sipping a variety of foods and beverages throughout the day to get the nutrition their still-growing bodies need. Protein-rich snack kits, pouches of protein-fortified nut butter and flavorful fruit cups work well for them. If there is an added flavor adventure, such as in Del Monte’s Fruit & Chia snack cups with dragon fruit, all the better!

More than other generations, Gen Z is looking for nondairy and meat-free options in an effort to prioritize animal welfare and environmental sustainability in their diets. Plant-based versions of favorite foods get their attention. Oat-milk yogurt and ice cream, mushroom jerky, and nonmeat “chicken” nuggets fit right in, as do brands touting eco-conscious packaging. Take for example Gen Zer Jaden Smith, who created JUST Water, a brand of responsibly sourced spring water in 100 percent–recyclable paper containers made from renewable resources. See, this generation really does have the power and the smarts to drive food trends toward positive change.

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