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Gen Z's relationship with food is complicated

Ketchum Food Study finds pressure on gen Z to show their values through food
ketchum gen z
ketchum gen z

The gen Z cohort has been deemed the foodie generation, but new research finds this generation has a complicated relationship with food.

Building upon Ketchum’s Food 2020 research which defined approximately one-quarter of the population as Food eVangelists, influential consumers seeking to change the food system, Ketchum’s newest research reveals that approximately half of gen Zers are classified as Food eVangelists, which is significantly higher than the general population, signaling increased engagement with food systems.

More than all other generations, 63% of gen Zers feel too much pressure to change the world and are more likely to believe their food choices need to signal their health, values and political beliefs. This has contributed to 62% who think their eating pattern is wrong. These unrealistic pressures have also created a “say-eat gap” between gen Z’s beliefs and behaviors.

An overwhelming majority says that sustainability, animal welfare and LGBTQ rights are important factors when buying food, but they are not significant purchase drivers. Other priorities like taste, value and affordability trump issues that are important to them.

READ: How grocers can get a handle on gen Z

“Since early childhood, this generation has seen food politicized and been taught to choose food products related to values,” says Melissa Kinch, president, Ketchum’s Food Consultancy. “They are exhausted and acting very differently from previous generations. It has left them feeling insecure and negative about cooking and food. In particular, the contrast between what they say is important and how they spend their money is eye-opening.”

Social media is also having an impact on food choices and eating habits. While many gen Zers find that social media can provide helpful recipe ideas and inspiration, 67% worry they spend too much time on social media, and 58% believe that social media has a negative impact on their body image. They are also more likely than other generations to say that food makes them feel guilty, anxious, uncomfortable and overwhelmed.

“If food companies and brands want to connect with gen Z successfully, they should consider the impact of virtue signaling and tap into gen Z’s quest for stability to show ways their products can bring joy,” says Kinch. “Scrolling through TikTok validates the innovation and creativity gen Z brings to the category, and food companies who collaborate with them will increase brand love and build loyalty.”

This article first appeared on Convenience Store News Canada

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