First things first; who are Generation Z? Generally, this term refers to those born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, though there’s no set agreement on the end dates. Either way, this is a generation of young people, mostly in their teens and very early 20s. They’re people who’ve grown up with modern technology - the internet especially - since birth, and they’re the people that will shape the world for years to come.
We’re getting more and more health-conscious, and Generation Z is certainly no different. Sugar, in particular, is now being recognised as the major health issue that it is. This generation of consumers recognises that fat isn’t necessarily the villain that we once thought and that sugary drinks and the like can be particularly unhealthy if not consumed in moderation. Most food businesses are moving in the right direction when it comes to this issue, so it’s probably not something that we’ll see dramatically change.
This is actually something that all consumers are now very conscious of, but Generation Z more so. Consumers are increasingly demanding that their food and eating habits have a minimal impact on the environment, which means more locally sourced produce, less meat (which we’ll look at in the next section), and of course a reduction in our reliance on plastics. Supermarkets and restaurants are already going some way to reducing single-use plastics, but more certainly needs to be done. Social media is encouraging opinion to shift like wildfire, and businesses must act quickly to ensure they don’t get caught out.
The prevalence of vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians (those who do not subscribe to a strict non-animal diet but seek to reduce their impact) is on the rise, and much of this is driven by Generation Z. Research suggests that this group could well account for more than a third of the entire vegan market, and that share is likely to increase. Again, social media is helping to drive this trend, as individuals are keen to show their appreciation for animal welfare and a commitment to certain lifestyles. Retailers and caterers will need to expand their vegan and vegetarian offering to respond, though most are already doing this effectively. Plenty of options are available at major supermarkets and restaurants, though there is a gap still when it comes to convenience food such as pre-packed sandwiches.
Millennials drink less alcohol than the preceding generation, but it’s Generation Z that could really change the landscape permanently. For this cohort, drinking alcohol is seen as a far riskier and less trendy activity than it previously was, meaning individuals are turning to healthier alternatives instead. Huge numbers of this generation do not drink (even accounting for the fact that many are not yet of drinking age), and it’s unlikely that they will pick up the habit in the same way as their predecessors. There are many reasons for this, including both the significant cost, but also the attitude that what parents and older millennials siblings do is not trendy. All three food and drink sector industries are going to have to think about not only alcohol-free beverages but interesting drinks that don’t even attempt to replicate them.
Finally, one of the more interesting points for caterers and food producers is that this lack of interest in alcohol means that Generation Z’s disposable income is more likely to be spent on eating out than preceding generations. This may well mean that we see the cafe and restaurant market boom in the coming years.
If you work in the food and drink manufacturing industry and wish to stay updated on the latest industry trends, then check out our news section regularly. You can also take our courses online, including the ever-popular Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate, which can be found here.