Gen Z is the hot new demographic everybody is talking about. Born between 1995 and 2012, they currently make up 20% of the population but are expected to climb to 30% by 2020–making them the largest generation, surpassing Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the rest.
Like generations before them, Gen Zers have their own unique “profile,” including a new set of needs and expectations that shape how companies like ours develop new products and market to them. And with Gen Z spending power estimated at up to $143 billion, you can bet they’ve got our attention.
I recently sat down with a few of the 8,147 Gen Zers who work at Tyson Foods to understand their unique perspectives, not only as consumers, but as valuable team members who can help crack the code to this new generation.
Convenient location is key
What matters to you most when grocery shopping?
HANNAH: My grocery store choices depend on convenience and the feel of the store. If I’m grocery shopping, I really like stores that have healthy options and interesting choices. I think I would sacrifice variety for convenience, though. If the place I like to shop is a farther walk than a different grocery store that maybe isn’t my favorite and doesn’t have as much variety, I would go to the closest store.
PARTH: Most grocery stores have the same variety, so for me, it comes down to convenience. During the school year, I’ll go to the closest grocery store to my classes, which is about a five-minute walk. During the summer when I’m not in school, I go to the grocery store closest to my apartment. It’s honestly just what’s closest and quickest for me, regardless of what store it is.
Cost is important, but Gen Zers are willing to pay a bit extra for healthy options.
How important is cost?
KATIE: When I’m grocery shopping, I’m more inclined to pay a little bit more for something that’s organic or healthy. I feel like I am more inclined to look at a label, because I want real food. I also like a lot of fresh produce, and even though that’s more expensive than getting something frozen, I’m more likely to pay a little bit more to get healthy food.
WILL: The first thing I do when I go grocery shopping is grab everything I need to be healthy. I get fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk. I try to come up with an estimate of what my grocery bill currently is and then branch out to different meats, cheeses etc. When I look around and decide on individual products, I find the cheapest priced item, unless the quality of that item seems to be beyond worth it.
HANNAH: I’ll maybe eat out once or twice a week. A lot of it isn’t even for a full meal. It’s going to a café to get a brownie or something after work instead of a full dinner, because that would be about $20 or $25 dollars versus $5. For me, eating out is almost entirely about cost – it’s expensive so I don’t do it a lot. Especially if I have friends who live far away from me, food is really the only way for us to meet up when we want to do something, and if we’re doing that every week, it adds up.
Gen Zers lean toward customization and variety.
How important is it to have food, your way?
PARTH: I consider myself a simple food guy, so I don’t need my food to have 10 toppings or ingredients. Going to places where I’m able to customize my meal allows me to eat the entrée the way I want to eat it. Customization 100% creates a different experience, because you spend more time thinking about what you are going to eat. This also creates more of a dialogue between your friends, because you mention what toppings you might get, and they offer their suggestion also, and what they think would pair best.
KATIE: It’s all about experience design as opposed to product design now and we’re moving toward this way of innovating where customization is really valuable. I see all of these ads on Instagram about meal delivery boxes. There was one that was a smoothie service and you pick whatever you want in the smoothie, they send you all the ingredients and you just have to blend it. I love the idea. I want to try it, but I feel like I am just on the cusp of being their target market. I don’t have enough money to afford all of these different subscription boxes, but I feel like they are targeting me in the right way because I want that sort of personalization.
Gen Zers are adventurous and crave new experiences, and they turn to friends and social media for recommendations.
How adventurous are you when it comes to food?
HANNAH: I used to be the pickiest eater. Seriously, just pasta and broccoli. But when I studied abroad in London, I forced myself to try new stuff, and now I eat more than anyone else in my family or more friends. I love to try new things now. I really wanted to push myself to actually experience all the different cultures that were available in London.
KATIE: I’m never the one to suggest somewhere new, but I want new experiences and new flavors. My friends are always the ones to bring me in—they’re way adventurous than I am sometimes, so they really push me to try new things.
PARTH: My friends and I tend to have our weekends where we go and try new things and explore the city. When deciding where to eat, a lot of it comes down to what we have seen online and through friends. If we see an article about a cool new place downtown, or a “Tasty” video or something along those lines from Facebook, we decide to go and check it out.
WILL: We typically take recommendations from within our friend group to find new places. Sometimes if we’re craving a specific type of restaurant, we have used Google to find certain places based on the area we are in. Google hasn’t let us down yet.
Experience and atmosphere keep Gen Zers coming back.
What makes a restaurant great?
PARTH: . The experience and the atmosphere are the most important factor in my opinion, and to most of my friends, as well. I want to go somewhere that has an open and fun vibe. The quiet, dark restaurants are no fun. I want to hear some music, people talking, etc. If you go to a fun place, you are then more likely to have a better experience, even if the food isn’t amazing.
KATIE: I think we’re now in a time that we’re going to a restaurant because we’ve seen it somewhere. We’ve seen it on Yelp, we’ve seen it on Instagram, and our friends looked super cute while they were eating their food. I think it’s all about the experience and the atmosphere. I trust my friends if someone is like, “this place is awesome, we have to try it. I’ve never been there, but it looks awesome.” I think we’re more likely to do that than to just go to a restaurant that we’ve been to a million times.
Gen Zers value transparency
How important is transparency?
WILL: A factor that helps me feel comfortable about buying a product is knowing that the company is open and public about everything it does. If a company is ever in the news for controversial reasons and it is shown that they attempted to cover up anything no matter how trivial it is, my trust in the product or business is automatically gone.
PARTH: The most important thing any food brand, food chain, restaurant, or grocery store can do is be a good company.
Published August 9, 2018.