As the newest generation to enter the workforce and consumer market, Gen Z is shaping the future of the food industry with their unique snacking habits and preferences. These younger consumers grew up with food trends like artisanal and gluten-free snacks and are now ditching traditional snacks, like chips, popcorn and jerky, in favor of trendier alternatives.
While consumers across age groups have been moving away from conventional snacks foods for some time, Gen Z is spending their money on snacks that cater to their specific lifestyles. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the snacks Gen Z is eating, which they're turning away from, and the larger diet trends that are influencing these choices.
Snack Food for Gen Z Consumers
Gen Z is known for seeking out snacks that are both convenient and healthier (or at least that appear to be healthier). They are looking for snacks that can fit into their busy lifestyles and that can provide them with the energy they need to get through the day.
Some popular snack ingredient preferences among Gen Z include:
Plant-based snacks: This generation is more conscious about their health and the environment, and as a result, they are turning to plant-based snacks made from ingredients like nuts, seeds, and fruits. These snacks also include specialty ingredients such as plantain, chickpea, kale and seaweed. Data from the Evergi platform reveals that 12% of 24-29 year olds prefer plant based snacks compared to just 6% of 50-55 year olds.
Snack bars: Snack bars are a convenient and easy way for Gen Z to get the energy they need. They come in a variety of flavors and often include nutrients like protein and fiber. Innovations in this category such as caffeinated and savory snack bars have also improved their profile among Gen Z consumers. Younger consumers are more likely to purchase caffeinated or savory snack bars than older consumers with 5% of 21-23 year olds vs 1.6% of 50-55 year olds reporting purchasing caffeinated or savory snack bars.
Snack bites: Snack bites are easy-to-grab treats that are sold in a range of flavor profiles, including salty and sweet. They're often made with functional ingredients like mushrooms, herbs and other plant-based substances. Perfect for Gen Z's busy lifestyle, snack bites are a great alternative to traditional snacks. With 12% of Gen Z reporting that they enjoy granola bites, these quick bites might be the future of snacks.
Gen Z Shaping the Future of the Snack Industry
While Gen Z is open to trying new and different snacks, they are also conscious about their health and are avoiding snacks that are high in sugar and artificial ingredients.
Some of the snacks that Gen Z is backing away from include:
Chips: Chips are a classic snack food that have been popular for decades, but they are not as popular among Gen Z due to their high fat and salt content. The Evergi Wellness Trends of 2023 reports that less than 40% of Gen Z is buying chips compared with almost 70% of 56-60 year olds. Chips are still a favorite with Gen Z, but if given the choice (and the income) they prefer healthier options.
Chocolate: Conventional chocolates can be high in sugar and artificial ingredients, making them a less desirable option for Gen Z. They are seeking out sweet snacks that are made with natural or functional ingredients. While Gen Z’s sweet tooth for conventional chocolates is on the decline, an increasing number of younger consumers are reaching for functional chocolates. 10% of 21-23 report purchasing chocolate with functional ingredients as opposed to just 7% of 50-55 year olds.
Meat & Cheese Snacks: Individually wrapped cheese snacks (string cheese or snack cheese) and meat jerky (beef, chicken) have long been staples of snacking in the United States. Gen Z seems poised to change that with less than 20% of younger consumers reporting a purchase of either product. While this may be surprising, it’s not entirely unexpected. Younger generations have been raised on a diet of fresh, healthy foods that are often organic and locally sourced—a stark contrast to the processed snacks of their parents’ generation.
Larger Diet Trends Influencing Gen Z Snacking Habits
Gen Z is influenced by a number of larger diet trends, including:
Health consciousness: Gen Z is more aware of the impact their food choices has on their bodies. They are also more interested in health and wellness. They are more likely to make healthier food choices, including those that are organic, vegan or gluten-free. A whopping 70% of Gen Z consumers report that they are focused on whole-body well being.
Sustainability: Gen Z is also more conscious of the environment and the impact that their food choices have on the planet. They are seeking out snacks that are made with sustainable ingredients and that are packaged in environmentally-friendly packaging. More concerned by global warming than any other generation, Gen Z is willing to put their money where their mouth is.
Convenience: Gen Z is busy and on the go. They seek out easy to grab snacks with the energy they need to get through the day. Their snack preferences reflect this trend of prioritizing convenience. They want snacks that are portable, but also healthy. The majority (58%) of Gen Zers said convenient foods help them eat healthier.
Overall, Gen Z is shaping the future of the snack industry with their unique snacking habits and preferences. Brands that cater to their needs by offering sustainable, healthy, and convenient snacks are sure to find success in this growing market.