By Emily Moquin
February 13, 2023 at 5:00 am ET
Gen Zers are 21 percentage points more likely than the general population to say they tried a new beverage in the course of a month and 11 points more likely to say they tried a new packaged food.
They allocate more of their wallet to the food & beverage category than to other categories like apparel, electronics or beauty.
Novelty and experimentation will help brands connect with Gen Z, but that doesn’t always have to be in the form of new product innovation. Brands can also win Gen Zers’ hearts with ideas for new flavor combinations, recipes, serving suggestions or even new occasions.
For more insights on Gen Z, read our recent coverage on the generation, including their social media preferences, their favorite celebrities and more.
Brands are obsessed with Gen Z, and for good reason. Not only do members of this generation wield powerful pop culture influence, but they are also eager to discover products, especially in food & beverage.
Gen Zers are far more likely than older generations to try foods and drinks that they haven’t tried before, both packaged goods and items from restaurants. This combination of influence and adoption means their tastes and preferences can set foods and drinks on a trajectory of success or failure. But brands don’t have to resort to outlandish innovations to keep Gen Zers interested; they can also reward their penchant for experimentation with a plethora of serving ideas and suggestions.
Experimentation is a part of growing up. This is especially true for Gen Zers, who are coming of age in a choice-filled marketplace with more channels to influence their purchase decisions. This effectively speeds up the experimentation cycle because it offers Gen Zers more touch points to learn about a wide range of options faster than ever before.
In beverages, a category ripe with choice and innovation that’s often aimed at this cohort, Gen Zers are 21 points more likely than the general population to have tried a new beverage over the course of a month.
What’s more, the frequency with which Gen Zers try new products suggests they are actively seeking out novelty. Nearly half (45%) of Gen Zers said they tried more than one new beverage in a month, and almost as many (44%) said the same about new packaged foods.
Gen Zers are putting their money into this experimentation with foods and beverages, allocating a sizable share of their spending to this category. When asked about their typical monthly spending, Gen Zers estimated that roughly 40% goes to restaurants and packaged foods, split fairly evenly. That’s more than apparel or entertainment.
There are many reasons Gen Zers may choose to spend money on food and drink. For one, everybody has to eat. And, compared with new clothes or personal electronics, food & beverage has a relatively low price point, enabling more accessible purchases. But this generation’s investment in food & beverage speaks to more than just basic needs. Food and drinks are also fun, social and culturally relevant, creating a source of connection for Gen Zers. Today, hanging out at a restaurant rivals millennials’ penchant for hanging out at the mall as teens.
It may seem like a safe bet to put efforts behind new product innovations to attract Gen Zers, but this generation’s favorite foods tend to be more traditional. When given a blank space to name their favorite foods, roughly 20% of Gen Zers mentioned pizza. This makes sense because pizza is delicious. But it also can serve as a wonderful canvas for adventurous Gen Zers to try new combinations and flavors.
Other American staples garnered high mentions from Gen Zers. Chicken (including nuggets, strips and wings), pasta and burgers were the next most-mentioned foods, but one less traditional item also made the top five: sushi. Now available in the prepared food section of many grocery stores, sushi is one example of the expanded choice this generation has grown up with — a global food trend that has turned into a frequent favorite.
It’s possible that Gen Zers’ experimentation may decline as they grow older, but it won’t completely go away. In the coming years, they will further don the responsibility of primary household grocery shopping and perhaps settle into some habits along the way. But, as members of the most diverse generation of Americans, with more channels of exposure to global trends and more ways to purchase increasingly niche products, Gen Zers’ penchant for trying new foods and beverages, whether it’s through buzzworthy mashups or novel functional benefits, seems likely to last a lifetime.
Emily Moquin is the food & beverage analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the food & beverage industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to joining Morning Consult, she worked at Gartner as a director analyst, covering consumers and food & beverage, and on the consumer insights team at H.J. Heinz. She graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations, as well as political science. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.