Gen Z + Food: What the Food Industry Needs to Know about Marketing to a New Generation

Today’s Generation Z (about 13-25 years old today) is changing the game for marketers across pretty much every industry out there. Today we’re going to talk about the way young consumers eat. If you’d prefer to see this as a video, feel free to watch my vlog:

1. They eat out more than any other generation

Today’s youth eat out more than any other generation. In fact, 78% of their discretionary spending goes to food, and much of that is from quick-service restaurants and eateries. In 2018, that meant 14.6 billion visits, about a tenth of all food traffic.

2. They want new food experiences

The way young consumers shop and eat is fairly polarized. They either trend toward the experiential and tactical or the fast and frictionless.

Let’s start by talking about food EXPERIENCES that intrigue this youth segment. Today’s youth pride themselves on individuality, and they demand personalized products, and experiences that they want to co-create. That’s why we’re seeing so many inspirational cooking videos like Tasty pop up on feeds across the country—because many of these youth want to try it out themselves, but don’t have the time or attention span to watch a full-length cooking show. Food products that allow for personalization are also on the rise. We’re seeing bespoke beverages like create-your-own flavor Gatorade, and options at every twist and turn to customize your meals.

This same group is open to diet experimentation. They are increasingly trying out new diets (keto, paleo, vegetarian, vegan). They are not afraid of new food types, and are asking for more plant-based meats wherever they go. They link dieting to social groups; they want to feel a part of some sort of movement or community. However, unlike millennials, this group is less concerned about health and wellness. Instead, they are more interested in flavor. They’re young, and while they know the “rules” of health and wellness, they don’t feel a strong need to follow them just yet. They prioritize flavor and fun over health every time.

3. Speed and convenience above all else

At the same time, we’re seeing an overwhelming push for speed and convenience. Today’s youth rely on mobile ordering more than ever before. 70% of mobile orders are done though a restaurant’s own site, app, or in-store kiosk; 30% through 3rd party apps like Uber Eats, GrubHub, and Door Dash. That means, as a restaurant, you need to really invest in your digital ordering. Frictionless function is the name of the game here. Keep it simple. Keep it standard. Keep it speedy.

4. Constant snacking & interest in meal replacements

Gen Z also wants bite-sized everything, from content to food. They snack constantly and often make meals out of snacks. More than half of young people in the US are interested in meal replacement products, especially if they tap into unique diets (like a keto meal replacement).

5. They eat alone (and prep their own food)

Today’s busy household schedules mean that teens are responsible for making much of their own food. Most often, Gen Z can be found eating alone for every meal except dinner (and oftentimes at dinner, too).

By making their own food choices, they focus on flavor, and fried comfort foods top the list. When you couple these eating habits with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, this may be a factor in the rise of childhood obesity and why this young generation has THE shortest life expectancy of any other living generation.



To be at the top of your game, you need to know your customers. This new, young generation makes up 40% of all consumers, and they are buying and eating food in new and different ways.

How will you use this for your customers? Email me and let me know!


Sarah Weise