Food For Kids Trailblazer: Kashi teams with Gen Z leaders to discover what young consumers want

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food for kids trailblazers Kashi Gen Z

As older members of Generation Z begin to strike out on their own and those still at home gather more influence over household grocery purchases, food and beverage manufacturers increasingly are asking what do 7- to 20-year-olds want to eat and drink?

To find the answer, Kashi went straight to the source and teamed with five inspiring Gen Z leaders, who became the “Kashi Crew” and helped co-create the Kashi by Kids new line of superfood-packed cereals and snacks made by kids for kids.

The company’s innovative approach to working directly with young consumers – and the resulting products – helped Kashi secure one of three spots in FoodNavigator-USA’s Trailblazers competition. As a winner, Jeanne Wilson, marketing director at Kashi Company, shared some of the insights gleaned from the Kashi Crew with attendees at FoodNavigator-USA’s Food For Kids Summit in Chicago last month.

“Gen Z is a really remarkable generation,”​ she said. “They have grown up with a smartphone in every hand and they really are highly connected to friends online … and so that makes them such a powerful force in today’s society. They truly are the change agents of the future. So, we really want to harness the power of Gen Z to tell us what they are looking for in foods, and so we came up with Kashi by Kids.”

Kashi by Kids “tapped into a group of Gen Z leaders that told us lots of different things on what they want to see in their foods, both cereals and snacks,”​ she said.

This included using more superfoods and ingredients like purple corn and chickpeas, which might sound unfamiliar to some but which also are an exciting new taste experience, Wilson said.

“They also wanted us to be more adventurous with flavors. They have sophisticated tastes. They want us to mashup flavors. So, the cereal we brought to market was a combination of different shapes and textures and also flavors that are really exciting and fun,”​ she said.

Kashi translated this to make a trio of cereals that launched in 2018 made from chickpeas, lentils and purple corn, including Honey Cinnamon, Berry Crumble and Cocoa Crisp. All of the cereals include 20 grams of whole grains, 3 grams of fiber and only 7-8 grams of sugar per serving. Each comes in a unique shape, such as cinnamon bun-like twists for the Honey Cinnamon and berry-filled squares for the Berry Crumble.

Recognizing that many consumers of all ages are trying to reduce their sugar intake, Wilson said the amount of sugar in the trio of cereals is lower than the average amount in other children’s cereals and that the brand tries to use only “minimally processed sugar sources,”​ such as honey and fruit as well as sugar cane.

“We are always very choiceful about the sweeteners that we do use to make delicious, natural, organic products,”​ Wilson added.

Quality ingredients are a top priority

Beyond bold flavors and fun shapes, the Kashi Crew told product developers that the quality of ingredients is also a top priority. For example, Wilson said, they want organic and Fair-Trade ingredients.

What is not in the cereals is just as important as what is in each box to the Kashi Crew, Wilson added. She explained that several of the Gen Zers who advise Kashi noted that they want products that are peanut-free so that their peers who have allergies can also enjoy the products.

Ongoing innovation

Based in part on the success of the cereals, Kashi worked with its Gen Z advisors to expand the Kashi by Kids line earlier this year with the launch of its soft baked snack bites featuring more super foods.

“We saw an opportunity not to just launch another bar, but to launch something that was munchable and fun to eat, but also with those super food ingredients, like chickpeas and coconut flour – something that is more diverse for kids’ diets today, which is typically maybe wheat and oat in the snack aisle,”​ Wilson said.

Looking forward, she said, Kashi will continue to work with its Gen Z advisors to innovate new products.

“There are always fresh ideas from this crew. They always have a new perspective on food, and so we bring them into our office regularly, we talk to them over email,”​ Wilson said. “So, we will see some new innovations in 2020, which is really exciting, and then we will see what is next after that.”

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