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Generation Z, those aged between 18 and 25, are more concerned about the sustainability credentials of the food and beverage products they buy, new research shows.
A third of Gen Z respondents said they consider it “very important” that a product is made sustainably, compared with 18% of those aged 65 and older, according to a survey by Ingredient Communications.
The survey revealed that Gen Z consumers also find vegetarian and vegan products more appealing, with 38% saying vegetarian claims are “very appealing” and 33% saying the same about vegan claims.
In contrast, just 6% of those aged 65 and older said they find vegetarian claims “very appealing”.
And while the youngest consumers were found to be much more price sensitive, a majority of Gen Z respondents (67%) also said they would be more willing to pay extra for a product made entirely with ingredients they recognise, which could be a boon to speciality food retailers.
“For independent fine food retailers, our research highlights the importance of merchandising stock in a way that will appeal to your most important customer demographic,” explains Richard Clarke, managing director of Ingredient Communications.
“For example, if the majority of your footfall is from customers aged over 65, perhaps putting gluten-free products centre-stage isn’t the best idea,” he said.
Richard said that the survey also highlights why aligning product development and marketing with the worldview of your target consumer demographic is so important. “For SME food brands, the findings of the survey give some clues about which messages should go front-of-pack in order to appeal to a particular target audience. If you’re hoping to attract younger consumers, for example, then giving prominence to messages about sustainability and ethics is likely to resonate.”
Recent research by Veris Strategies also suggested that Gen Z consumers are “the generation engaged in searching for the truth”, meaning that transparency around supply chains and business ethics will be critical to securing sales.
In 2021, transparency is set to be a key trend for the food and drink sector due to an increasing focus on health and sustainability, and experts say that the brands that will find success will be the ones that pair new packaging technologies, such as invisible barcodes and near-field communication technology, with creative, meaningful storytelling.
While this research may prove long-held assumptions about Generation Z true, retailers must also be aware of the ways in which generational habits are changing.
For instance, Gen Z is typically referred to as “generation online”, but the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the shopping landscape. Research by IGD found that during the lockdown, younger demographics shifted towards shopping at speciality food retailers, while older age groups moved to online services.
Further research by the group revealed that of those aged 50 to 64, which it dubbed Generation Perennial, 56% were buying food online, with a third predicting they will do so more in the future.
For the food and drink industry, Richard says that pursuing a “one-size-fits-all” approach to marketing can be risky. “While there will be common ground between generations, the areas of disagreement can be quite striking,” he says. By honing in on these generational differences, fine food retailers will ensure they are doing their best to appeal to their customers.