My 11-year-old daughter frequently asks for homemade ramen and kimchi for dinner, and yet she has never been to Asia. She also has smartphone applications to order food from her favorite restaurants and typically asks to buy certain ingredients because she wants to try a trendy recipe for a TikTok post. In essence, my daughter is a typical Gen Zer or zoomer, the generation born after 1996. Her generation is far more diverse than any previous one, and they are on track to become the most educated and creative generation yet. They are enthusiastic and discerning in their choices, especially when it comes to food and beverages. Even if there are similarities with millennials — their predecessors we should not assume that they are the same.
Generation Z was born in the digital world, with PCs, smartphones, gaming devices and the internet. This generation has virtual friends who they often socialize with on social networking sites. Convenience is key; they have no memory of the world before smartphones, hence they are accustomed to ordering a meal at the touch of button. The Gen Zer is always plugged in and exposed to a variety of cuisines and cultures.
Tech-savvy zoomers are never without a phone. Their reliance on technology is stronger than previous generations and previewing the menu on Facebook and posting online reviews in real time is the norm. Typically, Gen Zers decide if they want to eat at a restaurant based on the establishment’s social media accounts alone, preferring food that is photogenic and worthy of a post on Instagram. Indeed, Instagram-worthy dishes are often enough to drive Gen Z to a restaurant. This generation favors the new and innovative, yet loves classics. Generation Zers are enticed by delicious food and exciting flavors — anytime, anywhere. Eating
Like all youngsters, Gen Zers likes basics and classics, enjoying burgers, pizza, chicken, sandwiches, salad and fruit, yet they also strive for more flavors, combinations and variety. Generation Z is willing to try new food and out-of-the-box food trends, seeking restaurants that offer trendier food choices alongside more traditional ones.
Zers love more authentic and varied global offerings, such as Mediterranean, Southeast Asian, Korean, Middle Eastern and Mexican options. Hot, spicy and exotic flavors are popular among Gen Zers. Healthy, plant-based, fresh, natural, organic and sustainable as well as local, authentic, farm-raised and free-range foods resonate with Gen Z more than any other generation. However, this generation looks for authenticity and truth. Zers value ethics and gravitate toward restaurants that are transparent with their menus and products, the origins of their ingredients and how they prepare their dishes. Zoomers also expect brands to apologize and take corrective measures for their mistakes. Having vast amounts of information at their disposal, this pragmatic and realistic generation of consumers expects to be in full control — accessing, evaluating and analyzing a broad range of information before making any purchases. “Flexitarian dining” is a concept that has been embraced by young consumers, and Gen Zers believe that you don’t have to be vegan to want to consume more vegan foods, especially vegetables. Integrating vegetarian options without deciding to go fully vegetarian is very common among Gen Z consumers. We can easily deduce that this generation will be pushing the food industry in a healthier direction. Healthy eating often comes at a higher price tag, and zoomers are willing to pay more for fresh and wholesome foods as well for products that support social responsibility and contribute to local communities.
Gen Z diners feel at ease dining out and socializing for extended periods of time, particularly at coffee shops. It is the norm for students to meet at coffee houses for long hours to study in groups or individually while connected. Thus, coffee shops have invested in creating comfortable and convenient environments — similar to a second home — where visitors can gather in groups, share snacks and benefit from a high-speed internet connection. Although Gen Zers drink coffee in all its forms, they are young consumers and drink soda frequently. This generation also orders more lemonade, bottled and flavored water, fruit juice and smoothies.
Generation Z values individuality and favors singularity, thus zealous consumers are not only drawn to personalized products but also willing to pay a premium for items that highlight their individuality. This generation has huge purchasing power and is expected to heavily influence all retail marketing practices, both from a technological and product-specific point of view. It is im-portant to explore zoomers’ expectations of the future with regard to smart retailing, since Gen Z has more clout than any previous generation to redefine production and consumption. Restaurants, quick-service eateries and fast food chains are all using smart technologies to improve consumer shopping experiences and remain competitive. As the number of people shopping online has increased dramatically, establishments continue to increase their IT budgets, as they aware of the importance of IT and its usages for achieving higher exposure, productivity and sales.
Finally, the influence of Generation Z is likely to continue and strengthen. As the generation grows older, it will expect fast, continuous change and innovations, which it will want to be the first to discover. Thus, the biggest future challenge for marketing and consequently for retailing seems to be the zoomers.
In a nutshell
Gen Zers want it all: the delicious, the varied, the convenient, the affordable, the experiential, the customizable, the healthy, the honest, the transparent and the ethical. They expect proper menu call outs with a very clear ingredients list. This generation is drawn to casual dining but also wants access to street food as well as fine-dining options. But most importantly, it yearns for experiences that are high in quality and good value for money. Zoomers simply want things their way — all the way.
Maya Bekhazi Noun,
co-founder and managing director of The Food Studio