Why Gen Z Matters To Category Managers

July 5, 2023
By Phil Lempert, SupermarketGuru, Consumer Trend Tracker, Food Trends Editor, NBC’s Today, and Author

The NCSolutions 2023 Consumer Sentiment Survey reports what Generation Z demands from a brand. Sixty-eight percent want the best value for their budget, while 59% demand the best quality foods.

Gen Z is coming of age, and they will be a force to reckon with, according to the NCSolutions Survey. Gen Z households spend an average 12% more on CPG purchases than non-Gen Z households, demonstrating their might in the grocery aisle. Generation Z is loosely defined as the group born between 1997 and 2012. Its eldest members only recently entered the workforce — and many more will enter every year for the next decade. The oldest Gen Zers are working and have mortgages; the youngest are preteens.

Here is what is important for brands to know. Gen Z has been shaped more than any other by the digital age, climate anxiety and concern, global unrest, wars, financial insecurity, student loans, and, of course, the educational disruptions due to COVID-19. McKinsey surveyed Gen Z and found them to have the least positive outlook and the highest percentage of mental illness of any generation. They are passionate about food — and because of the influence of social media, their tastes change rapidly. They want the trendiest foods and are willing to use their online skills to find them. With this passion comes anxiety. A June 2023 OnePoll survey found 41% of respondents ages 18–43 have “menu anxiety” when ordering food from a restaurant; and 47% waited to see what someone else ordered before making their selection.

Their commonality is digital. They work, shop, buy takeout and groceries, date and even make friends online — which is why it is critical for brands and grocers to understand their needs if they want to grow their online business. It’s not about pretty pictures of food — that’s a part of it for sure — but they look for nutritional information, sustainability information, product information, recipes, trends, special- and local-curated products, taste information and customer reviews online, and the information must be 100% accurate.

Of the one billion users on TikTok, 60% are Gen Zers, according to McKinsey. Whether it be nutritional or health information, recipes or simply saving money – your brand needs to be on TikTok to attract these important shoppers. Many CMA and SIMA members are Gen Zers, so you walk the talk — and these consumers will respect what you have to say about your brand’s attributes — but they will also fact check you to ensure that your brand’s values align with their own before they buy.

The College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. high schoolers’ perspectives on their future careers. The survey found that 90% indicated it was important to pursue careers in which they can make a difference, including addressing hunger, sustainability, environmental conservation, and natural resources; but only 37% are interested in careers in food, agriculture, natural resources, and the environment. Eighty-eight percent said that it’s important to work for an organization that is dedicated to making a positive impact on the planet. Just 14%  said that salary was a top priority. A separate Axios/Generation Lab survey of over 2,000 college students conducted February 28-March 13 of this year reported that 16% hope to work for Google, 6% for the federal government, five percent for Apple and 2.2% for Disney. This matters because by 2025 Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce.

The question is, how are we going to attract these workers to the CPG and grocery industry?