The Food and Beverage Revolution: Unlocking Younger Consumers’ Preferences

The food and beverage industry is seeing shifting consumer behaviors, particularly among younger consumers. These consumers—Gen Z and Millennials—differ from older generations in three main ways.

First, they are more informed. For example, younger generations grew up in the information era and had exposé documentaries on the food industry baked into their middle school and high school educations.  They absorbed this information as they were formulating their opinions and habits around food. This exposure to information makes younger generations more conscious consumers, meaning they focus on how their purchasing decisions impact themselves, the environment, and society.

Second, younger consumers are experiential, as you can see in the graph below. They’ve become used to seeing a variety of beautifully presented food on social media and they in turn want their food to deliver experiences. Millennials in particular are more adventurous, have tried more “trendy” foods and beverages, and seek experiences when they dine out. For brands to keep up, they must know where the trade-offs lie and what they can do to garner the attention of these younger consumers.

Third, Gen Zs and Millennials feel especially short on time. This bleeds into how they approach shopping, cooking, and dining. Marketers need to understand how these convenience-focused generations behave differently because of restricted schedules and help alleviate the anxiety around cooking.

To support Collage Group members, we conducted two nationally-representative surveys of 2,880 and 2,877 respondents separately. With your input, we designed a series of questions testing key hypotheses on how Gen Z and Millennial consumers compare to older generations, and one another, when it comes to food and beverage.

Takeaways and action steps implied by our research include:

  • Many Millennials gravitate towards “trendy” health foods: Make sure your brand offers a variety of healthy “trendy” options, but don’t be trendy for the sake of it as Millennials find this off-putting
  • Millennials are shopping at big-box stores more than national grocery chains: Capture Millennial shopper attention by partnering with both big-box stores and national grocery chains when distributing your brand’s products
  • Young consumers care about brand values: Adopt and promote the values of smaller brands in your portfolio when they align to those of younger consumers. Show how your company promotes its values through these acquisitions
  • Millennials and Gen Zs are cooking at home, but find it to be a chore: Provide simple recipes that use your brand and prepped products with few ingredients that will make the process of cooking more enjoyable and less of a burden
  • Gen Z has a distinct preference for tea over coffee: Focus on Gen Z’s preference for tea and specialty coffee drinks to continue to drive this preference into the future, even as they develop more of a taste for coffee

*Respondents were asked if they agreed to three statements, including: “I consider myself a foodie,” “I have a more adventurous palette than most people,” and “I like to eat foods from different cultures.” “Experiential Eaters” agree with all three. “Seekers” agree with any two statements. “Occasional Deviators” agree with just one statement. “Safe Players” agree with none of the statements. Note: agreement is top 2 box.

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gen-Z “Family Values” offers new ground for marketers tapping into cultural themes

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In Taking a Stance: Examining millennial and gen-Z political issue positions, we established that despite being more likely than millennials to self-identify as conservative, gen-Z is decidedly progressive in its political leanings. It is possible, however, that gen-Z’s flavor of conservatism is distinct from that of millennials, and it will be important for brands to understand the nuances of gen-Z’s social divides.

Collage Group has sought to explain these differential outcomes, making them a core focus of our Ad Rating Survey. As part of the survey, we asked respondents to take an unambiguous stance on 13 selected social trends, in four categories:

After analyzing the results for both generations and race and ethnicity we found several interesting takeaways:

Rather than featuring a strict divide between liberals and conservatives, the generational ideological battleground has three categories.

The largest group is Social Liberal (44% of the population), which tends to approve of trends across all four categories, followed by Social Conservative, with 29% of the population tending to disapprove of all the mentioned trends. A third group, however, responded positively to trends regarding race, youth, and activism, but negatively on non-traditional family trends.

gen-Z consumers are substantially more likely to feature Family Values than Social Conservatism

While gen-Z is more comfortable with same-sex parents and interracial couples than millennials, they are more wary towards single mothers, stay-at-home dads, and unmarried partners. This implies that for gen-Z, Family Values is more concerned with family structure than family membership.

Women are at the center of youth Social Liberalism

Given the salience of the 2016 Women’s March, the 2017 #MeToo movement, and the surge of women running for political office in 2018, the importance of gender in discussions of social ideology cannot be ignored. Among gen-Z and millennial panelists, a strong majority of women are Social Liberal (58%), while only 45% of men fall into that category. Millennial and gen-Z women are more united in their liberal social leanings than men of the same age.

Understanding how Family Values shapes generational social views is essential for marketing to these fast growing and influential consumer segments. To learn more about how you can leverage these preferences to produce valuable brand outcomes, please email [email protected].

 

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