"Since early childhood, this generation has seen food politicized and been taught to choose food products related to values. They are exhausted and acting very differently from previous generations. It has left them feeling insecure and negative about cooking and food. In particular, the contrast between what they say is important and how they spend their money is eye-opening," Melissa Kinch, president of Ketchum's Food Consultancy, said in a press release.
A stressed generation turns to social media for inspiration, frustration
In the survey, Ketchum found that Gen Z consumers are stressed about what they eat and what it says about them. The survey found 61% of Gen Z said they felt pressure since childhood to eat according to their identity and beliefs, which has created several negative associations to food, Ketchum stated.
Similarly, 63% of Gen Zers believe their food choices need to reflect their health, values, or political beliefs, with 62% of the age group saying they think their eating pattern is wrong, Ketchum said. This creates friction between Gen Z consumer beliefs and behaviors – or what Ketchum is calling a “say-eat gap.” Though Gen Z wants products that support sustainability, animal welfare, and LGBTQ rights, they give precedence to taste, value, and affordability, Ketchum found.
Often touted as the digitally native generation, Gen Z is finding food inspiration and agitation from social media. Overall, 67% of Gen Zers say they spend too much time on social, with 58% say that it has attributed to a negative body image.
Social media also provides inspiration on how to cook. Overall, 68% of Gen Zers cook and eat differently than their parents, Ketchum said.
Additionally, the trend towards snacking is prevalent with Gen Z consumers. Most (55%) Gen Z consumers make a meal out of snacks weekly, with Gen Z men and women equally snackifying meals, Ketchum said.
"If food companies and brands want to connect with Gen Z successfully, they should consider the impact of virtue signaling and tap into Gen Z's quest for stability to show ways their products can bring joy. Scrolling through TikTok validates the innovation and creativity Gen Z brings to the category, and food companies who collaborate with them will increase brand love and build loyalty," said Kinch.