Gen Z Takes to the Kitchen

August 10, 2017


Against my better judgment, I recently agreed my husband and I would watch our nine nieces and nephews for a night. When you throw our own two kiddos in the mix, you’ve got two adults watching 11 kids ages 13 and under. Sounds like a relaxing way to spend a Saturday, right?

The evening started off as you would expect … creating videos, streaming Netflix movies, playing pick-up basketball in the backyard. Then a couple of my nieces got an idea. “Let’s have a bake-off!” Suddenly, two 11 and 12 year olds were elbows deep in ingredients. To say I’m not much of baker would be an understatement, so I stayed out of the way as they took to an iPhone for inspiration.

This shouldn’t surprise me. These are the same girls I had recently spent a full week with on a family vacation where the only TV shows that even began to hold their interest were on the Food Network. When it comes to Generation Z and food, my nieces are right on trend. Members of Gen Z (born roughly between 1995 and 2010) are expected to eat far more fresh foods and prepare more meals from scratch using an oven or stovetop when compared to their Gen X parents.[1]

In fact, nearly four in 10 kids, including 51 percent of teens, say they have recently cooked a meal from scratch.[2] But when baking and cooking, don’t expect today’s tweens, teens and young adults to search for exact recipes. They are inspired by YouTube videos and photographs on social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat. Something I witnessed firsthand as a social post inspired the icing for their baked goods. Gen Zers happily experiment and prepare foods based on wordless images — a stark difference to baby boomers who prefer specific written recipes.[3]

Overall, food rates as Gen Z’s top obsession, ranking higher that either music or sports.2 Their spending habits mirror this obsession. Today’s teens spend more on food than any other category. Food makes up 24 percent of teen budgets, eclipsing clothing at 19 percent.[4] But their impact on food spending doesn’t stop there. Seventy-seven percent of Gen Zers impact their families spending on food and beverages — a higher percent than any other household purchase category.[5]

So how can today’s marketers cater to this new generation of foodies? Three tips:

  • Be visual. Whether photos or videos — don’t expect Gen Zers to read lengthy posts. Think short “snackable” pieces of content, how to videos, and photo galleries.
  • Go where they are. YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, — are you there? Seek out tweens, teens and young adults where they already gather. But, you don’t have to be everywhere. Choose a channel or two and really master it.
  • Encourage co-creation. Gen Zers are entrepreneurial and experimental. Leverage their adventurous side and let them weigh in on your products and food combinations.

Oh, and how did the bake-off turn out? Let me tell you, the critics were tough. In a blind taste test, the nine cousins scored “brownie #1” vs. “brownie #2” on appearance, taste and creativity. Judges’ comments included a 7-year-old food critic proclaiming, “Brownie number two was just too much of one flavor.” By a score of five to four, “brownie #1” eked out a victory.

[1] The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018, NPD Group
[2] Cassandra Report, 2015
[3] Foodways of the Younger Generations—Millennials & Gen Z 2016, The Hartman Group
[4] Taking Stock with Teens® Spring 2017, Piper Jaffray
[5] Uniquely Gen Z, IBM and the National Retail Federation 2017