group of gen z

Gen Z: Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Food is the number one spending priority for upper-income Gen Zers, according to Piper Sandler’s recent report. Explore this and other key takeaways about Gen Z’s food preferences and spending.


  • Food is a major component of Gen Z spending, according to the latest survey, Taking Stock With Teens, by Investment firm Piper Sandler. 
  • Gen Zers are most likely to choose fast food restaurants when eating out. 
  • 43% of Gen Zers are willing to try plant-based meat, which make it an important target group. 

Gen Z Food Preferences and Spending Habits

Investment firm Piper Sandler released its latest Gen Z survey, Taking Stock With Teens, which provides an in-depth look at Gen Z’s spending habits. This survey asked 7,100 teens from across the US questions about what they’re buying, how much they’re spending, their favorite brands, and how they shop.

The report highlights food as a major component of Gen Z spending. Diverse and conscientious, Gen Z continues to influence the food industry through its preferences for sustainability and authenticity in brands and products. Here are seven key takeaways about Gen Z’s food preferences and spending from the report:

1. Food is the Biggest Spend for Upper-Income Gen Zers

Piper Sandler’s spring 2022 report shows that food is the biggest expense for upper-income teens at a share of 22%. This has remained fairly steady, with food purchases accounting for 21% of their expenses in fall 2021.

2. Gen Z Spending Is Up

The self-reported spending of Gen Zers is $2,367 per year on average, up 9% year-over-year. This increased spending may be linked to the greater number of teens holding part-time jobs: 39% compared to 33% in spring 2021.

3. Favorite Snacks Are Savory

Crunchy savory snacks are the top choice for Gen Z. The most popular brands Gen Zers are snacking on are Goldfish (11%), Lays (10%), Cheez-It (9%), Doritos (6%), and Cheetos (4%).

Download our Snack Trends Guide to learn about trending flavors and ingredients in snacks.


4. Fast Food Restaurants Preferred

When Gen Zers eat out, they’re most likely to choose fast food restaurants, which provide a casual atmosphere, to-go convenience, and a good price point. Chick-Fil-A is their number one choice at 18%, followed by Chipotle (14%), Starbucks (13%), McDonald’s (4%), and Dunkin’ (3%).

5. Plant-Based Meat Is Still Trending

In spring 2021, nearly half (49%) of Gen Zers said they consume or are willing to try plant-based meat, though the number is down slightly to 43% in the most recent report. This generation’s relatively high interest in plant-based meat makes it an important target group, particularly through fast food offerings.

6. Cash Is King

Gen Z is still primarily paying for purchases with cash, with 89% having used cash in the past month. For payment apps, though, Apple Pay is the most popular, followed by Venmo. 

girl looking at phone

7. Digital Engagement Is Shifting    

For the first time, TikTok has surpassed Snapchat as Gen Z’s favorite social media platform. TikTok boasts a 33% share, followed by Snapchat (31%) and Instagram (22%). Food marketers looking at video platforms as a way to reach Gen Z should know their daily video consumption is mostly from Netflix (30%), YouTube (30%), and Hulu (8%).

Appealing to Gen Z

Keeping an eye on how Gen Z’s food preferences and purchases are evolving will put brands in a strong position to deliver the products they want and reach them through the right channels. To create foods that appeal to Gen Z, Glanbia Nutritionals has the snacking solutions and plant-based solutions to get you started, as well as a full portfolio of craveable flavors!

Contact us to learn more.

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