Food Consultants Jim Matorin and Lionel Binnie Discuss Gen Z:
My focus of late has been the long-term transformations the restaurant industry will need to implement to offset the shifts in consumer food-away-from-home eating behavior? Significant given the industry’s ongoing quandary will persist, “too many seats, not enough guests.” Given the population demographics in the U.S. are shifting, I thought a good starting point would be to research the consumer “hot buttons” of all groups.
Out of the gate I discovered leading research firm Datassential recently studied the different ways each group is engaging with food. They revealed that outside of some minor nuances, the key differentiators and similarities between generations were not noteworthy. Candidly I was surprised given all the “buzz” regarding operators coveting/wooing the younger generations, especially Gen Z.
Gen Z, individuals born after 1997 will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. Overall, Gen Z commands about $828 billion in spending power; they spend a high percentage on food.
Having lived their whole lives online, they are an exceedingly tech-savvy, a “cut to the chase” generation. Their digital life is becoming even more complex. Smartphone penetration is currently estimated (source: Common Sense media) at 81.1% among teenager (ages 12-to17-year-olds) and is expected to reach 85% by 2022. The same report estimates they are heavily partaking in social media; approximately 7 out of 10. According to a recent eMarketer report, their mobile social app usage is higher than Millennials – the Big Three platforms being YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. More than half (59%) of Gen Zers (specifically ages 16-24) surveyed indicated their usage of YouTube increased in this past year versus the prior year; while 56% indicated their use of Snapchat increased and 55% of the respondents were using Instagram more.
Given Gen Z is a tech centric generation, I believe marketers now recognize they need to digitally transform their marketing/selling strategies accordingly to this benefit, results driven demographic group. Straight to the point messaging, no clever promotional ploys (e.g., loyalty programs), authentic, as well as entertaining interactive experiences across MTP (multiple touch points).
It is also vital for companies to keep pace with technology trends to continue engaging and appealing with its younger generation of consumers. Two current trends that are gaining popularity are the creative, multimedia “storification” of social media platforms and AR (Augmented Reality) marketing.
Oh yes, let’s not forget, when it comes to food, my research indicates their choices are all over the map, but again, thanks to technology, they like food that is Instagrammable (shareable photographs). Consequently, food marketers are crafting influence marketing movements targeting teenagers to drive sales.
Enough with technology being the key differentiator between Gen Z and all other demographic groups. Lionel, what do you know about the eating behavior of Gen Z?
Some of the trends I’ve read about and heard about, and also observed (I have Gen Z kids!); snacking is a big trend; this generation is fine with replacing a meal with a couple of snacks…But the ‘avocado on toast’ kind, rather than a bag of Cheetos. Is that a big generalization? Yes, but I believe it’s generally true; the stigma (it’s a generational thing) against snacking, and ‘spoiling one’s appetite’ is increasingly less of an issue.
Also, as interest in new and global cuisines spreads across all kinds of media, and also because Gen Z’s parents are more likely than preceding generations to have raised their children with a ‘foodie’ consciousness, Gen Z are more open to international cuisines and new food trends in general, than preceding generations. They are absorbing the food and health messages of their parents, friends and the culture at large; better-for-you, healthier, but also indulgent-when-you-need-it.
Increasing knowledge of the huge variety of ingredients and cuisines, including global, and different ways to combine and prepare food are key. To conclude, an awareness of more interesting and healthy food in a well-balanced life, is how I would sum up Gen Z’s overall attitudes to food.
(Discussion to be continued)