This is the second in a series of columns that report on the 30th annual The Lempert Report Trend Forecast; its focus is on the most important issues the retail and food industries face. Today, it’s all about Gen Z & food.
The food industry is required to understand all shoppers from all generations to be successful. In my opinion, we must understand one generation’s food and shopping culture even more than the others. Gen Z has been shaped more than any other by the digital age, climate anxiety and concern, global unrest, wars, financial insecurity, student loans and of course the educational disruptions due to COVID-19.
McKinsey surveyed Gen Z and found them to have the least positive outlook and the highest percentage of mental illness of any generation. These 68.6 million consumers, according to the US Census were born between 1997 and 2013 and are passionate about food – and because of the influence of social media, their tastes change rapidly. They want the trendiest foods and are willing to use their online skills to find them. The oldest Gen Zers are working and have mortgages, the youngest are preteens. Their commonality is digital. They work, shop, buy takeout and groceries, date and even make friends online – which is why it is critical for grocers to understand their needs if they want to grow their online businesses. It’s not about pretty pictures of food – that’s a part of it for sure – but these GenZers look for nutritional information, sustainability information, product information, recipes, trends, special and local curated products, taste information and customer reviews – all online – and the information must be 100% accurate.
Bazaarvoice reported in April seeing a 410% increase in food, beverages and tobacco images submitted by users. User-generated content is becoming more and more important especially with Gen Z. Their ecosystem is made up of apps, social media sites as well as traditional websites. Of the 1 billion users on TikTok, 60%, according to McKinsey, are Gen Zers. Whether it be nutritional or health information, recipes or simply saving money, grocery retailers and the CPG brands they sell need to be on TikTok to attract these important shoppers. One example is the success of Rebecca Chobat, a 30-year-old with a TikTok channel called Dollar Tree
We see Gen Z as the most important generation that will affect change in society and our culture; they are demanding purpose and accountability. And according to McKinsey, they will select their foods based on these criteria to determine not only where they buy, but also how sustainable and transparent the retailers and brands that offer them are. Erewhon here in Southern California is a perfect example of a retailer that understands this generation and has captured their attention and sales in spite of being one of the highest priced grocers. Erewhon’s secret formula is simple: target who you want to sell, get to know them intimately, and forge a relationship.
That’s what a smart grocer or brand does.
Tomorrow, the 2023 Trend Forecast continues with a discussion about the 15-minute city and how it will change food buying behaviors.