Dr. Supriya Chouthoy, Asst. Professor, FLAME School of Communication, Advertising and Branding, FLAME University decodes the tectonic shifts in the food industry being heralded by Gen Zers
The tectonic plates of the food industry are shifting! It is the young, “ultra-focused,” Gen Zers who are pushing and pulling at food choices to create large pieces of markets. Moreover, what exactly do these young consumers want? Plates and heaps of healthy and fresh foods. The youngest and most potent consumers, India accounts for 32% of the global Gen Zers, a sizeable number of 472 million youngsters. With 156 million (33%) living in urban areas catering to their palate is a massive opportunity for the food industry. In future, Gen Z is expected to quickly race ahead of the Millennials and emerge as the most populous generation on earth. As per a 2019 Bloomberg report, this dominant group has a strong buying power as well as a powerful influence on their parent’s purchases. Gen Z, as we know them, or iGens or Centennials were born between 1995 and 2010, (McKinsey and Co.), and are set to grow to represent 82 million people worldwide by 2026. They are the largest generation cohort (AT Kearney Report) in our future.
So what foods are the Gen Zers putting on their plate? They are increasingly saying “no” to Cheese Burgers and asking for a “Palak” and Kale smoothie. They are passing up the Doughnut for a ‘healthy salad! We looked at search trends for Salad and Doughnuts for the past year in India, and the following graph showed up! The following graph compares search trends for both these items. The blue trend curve indicates search volumes for “salad”, and the red trend curve indicates search volumes for “doughnut” in the past from July 2019 to Aug 2020. Salad search interest is double that of the search interest for Doughnuts.
Source: Google Trends
Tech Dependant Integrators Following The ‘I Am What I Do” Mantra
Gen Z has come of age into a world of hyper-connectivity and tech dependency, where content is free and shared. These youngsters grew up digitally swiping left, right and upwards before even taking their first baby steps. They are very comfortable with their gadgets, and as a result, smartphones are an integral part of their lives. They use their phones to share what they do on a real-time basis regularly. This sharing also applies to how they’re posting about their food choices. They provide regular updates of what they eat. “I am what I do” is the mantra they live by, and consumption is a means of self-expression for them. Our identity nomads are going ahead to create their identity, based on the food choices they are making. They need to be seen as pioneers in their circles, and right eating choices often elevates their status, which drives their decisions of consuming healthy options.
These ‘youngies’ also have a penchant for following several health diets. As a result, they are evaluating and trying out different diet plans such as gluten-free ingredients, vegetarian, paleo or dairy-free, keto and vegan. Because of being curious, as well as tech innate, no question of theirs goes without being answered. Information being just a swipe away, further helps them make informed choices on what food they will eat.
Food Trends For The Future
For marketers, this represents an opportunity, and it would be interesting to understand what kind of foods and packaging will work for the future? Gen Zers seek organic, fresh and natural foods and brands that make it for them will taste success. As many as 51% of the Gen Zers believe that sugar needs to be avoided as it comes in the way of achieving a healthy body. They prefer clean eating and choose foods with high proteins, low-carbs and low sugar diets. Gen Z is flexible about consuming plant-based products and more likely to turn vegetarian and go all the way to becoming vegan too!
Food brands that disclose their ingredients, origins, sustainability stories and the breakup of carbs, good fats and sugars as well will be trusted. Communications that address how the food was processed, who made it, who owns the company that created it? Where did it come from? How was it produced? As a company, do they treat their workers fairly? What kind of packaging design do they use? Can the packaging be reused or recycled? How will this impact the environment? Will need to be addressed through appealing stories which could engage Gen Zee consumers and help win their trust.
Lo and behold the future of food will probably have cakes and loaves of bread, which would be gluten-free but would taste as good as regular baked items. Toffees and candies will be freeze-dried fruit bites, and candies will be made with ingredients derived from nature. It is the power of Gen Z which will drive food production with clean and fresh choices. A desire for a healthy life seems to take centre stage as one gets older and experiences declining health. However, our Gen Z is not waiting for that stage. They have health and wellness on their minds and are making sure they are eating healthy to lead a good life.
*Views expressed are personal.
Pew Social Trends
AT Kearney Report
Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2019). Generation Z: A century in the making. London: Routledge.