There are two sides to the Gen Z food story
By Sally Smithwick, RDBA Contributing Editor
Have you heard of Romilly Newman? This month, “Town and Country Magazine” called her “The Gen Z Martha Stewart,” a fitting comparison being that Newman, at only 25, has carved out an impressive career in expert cooking paired with beauty and style.
Newman’s career began at age 11 when she appeared on CBS’s “The Early Show” demonstrating how to make her “Revolutionary Risotto,” followed by her appearance on Food Network’s “Chopped” at age 13. She became the youngest contestant to appear on the popular cooking show. And while growing up in the film industry in New York with British parents, a mother that exposed her to luxury foods and French fare, Newman stands to represent one side of the Generation Z food story, the “foodie” side that exists within gourmet, beauty and adventurous food interests that inspire joy rather than create anxiety.
Generation Z has been dubbed the “foodie generation,” an interest experts say was ushered in by Millennials. And according to Ketchum Food Research, half of Generation Z are now classified as Food eVangelists, a term originally defined by Ketchum in 2013 as “a small group of people who have disproportionate influence and a strong desire to affect change in the food industry.”
Ketchum’s Food 2020 research also defined approximately one-quarter of the population as Food eVangelists, so as defined in 2013, that classification is perhaps not a “small group” anymore.
But the other side to this generation’s passion for food and the food system reveals they are shouldering pressure that relates to how their food choices mirror their personal health, values and political beliefs. In fact, the pressure is stressing them out and creating a “say-eat” gap between their beliefs and buying, making it a little trickier to predict their needs and desires as shoppers.
Here are some key takeaways from Ketchum’s report on Gen Z’s relationship to food, a follow-up to its 2020 research:
Sixty-three percent of Gen Z feels too much pressure to change the world and are more likely to believe their food choices need to signal their health, values and political beliefs.
Sixty-two percent of Gen Z think their eating pattern is wrong.
An overwhelming majority of Gen Z says that sustainability, animal welfare and LGBTQ rights are important factors when buying food, but they are not significant purchase drivers.
Priorities like taste, value and affordability trump issues that are important to them.
And there’s the complicated nature of social media as well. While the research indicates Gen Z is likely to feel a personal responsibility when it comes to the food system, these TikTok, YouTube and Instagram scrollers worry they spend too much time on social media (67%), and say social media has a negative impact on their body image (58%).
“They are also more likely than other generations to say that food makes them feel guilty, anxious, uncomfortable and overwhelmed,” the report said.
Romilly Newman, however, is on to something, and retailers can learn from her about what inspires twenty-somethings that are more worldly than ever before, but not all working with “buy whatever you want” budgets or “eat whatever you want” bodies.
What does seem to transcend the pressure they are feeling is that they “remain optimistic, and most want food to make them happy, relaxed, healthy and confident,” according to the Ketchum report.
Newman, who is not only a skilled chef, but additionally a food stylist and a collaborator within the lifestyle interior design industries, shared with “Town and Country Magazine:”
"I try to find beauty in the everyday and some days are harder than others, but that luxury in food can be the simplest thing. It can be a runny egg yolk, it can be the perfect salted butter on crusty bread. Like it doesn’t have to mean hosting a dinner party for 20 people. Um, but just living life in a way that’s, that’s thoughtful and that has some intention behind it, I think is, is really what I’m about.”