By Kristie Sigler, Sr. Vice President and Partner, Fleishman Hillard
The millennials are the most researched generation of all time, but coming right behind them is Generation Z. These future food consumers were born between 1995 and 2010 and will have an even greater impact on the food industry. Equal in size to millennials but very different in their life experiences and values, Generation Z will require yet another new approach to shopping, communications and nutrition/wellness.
Why are they different? Raised mostly by Generation X (the original latchkey kids), they are realists. Their childhood years were shaped by the Great Recession, school shootings and 24/7 communications. They have never seen a fax machine or heard the screech of internet dial-up and will study the recount of the 2000 election as a historical event. They have been raised to expect bumps in the road and to work through them.
They are wholly digital and social communicators. With an attention span of 8 seconds (yes, that is one-quarter of a standard 30-second TV spot), this new generation manages five screens at any given time: a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop and a music device. The communication transition continues: Gen X replaced phone calls with emails, millennials replaced emails with text, and Gen Z is replacing texts with visuals. They value diversity, inclusion and complete transparency in communications — and spend accordingly. They research products online, but trust peer reviews over marketing messaging.
Here’s the good news: they appear to be more engaged in food than either of the two generations before them. While they are receiving limited nutrition and culinary education in schools, they have their own TV programming in shows such as “MasterChef Junior” and “Food Network Star Kids.” Recent research shows them more interested in cooking techniques and ingredients than millennials and at twice the rate of Generation X. “Foodies in training,” they share food experiences on social media, demand authenticity, eat as mini adults, expect accessible food experiences and live multiculturaly.
All of this presents a new and exciting challenge for those of us in the food industry. We will soon welcome a generation who craves quality food experiences, but needs more education than any cohort before them. As a retail dietitian, you have a built-in focus group already in your stores. Your youngest employees could be a great sounding board for your programming, prepared foods and nutrition messaging. We encourage you to listen to their interests, concerns and wishes as you think through your go-forward strategy. While the majority of Generation Z is still relying on their allowance as their primary source of income, they will be the largest consumer spending group in the next 10 years. How you and your concept adapt to their unique food passions, communication vehicles and education needs can help set you apart and make you their retailer of choice.
Kristie Sigler is FleishmanHillard’s North American Food & Agribusiness lead. Based in the firm’s Kansas City office, she helps clients shape business and marketing strategies for a rapidly changing global marketplace. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.