A Snapshot of Gen Z:  The Key Characteristics

A Snapshot of Gen Z: The Key Characteristics

With Gen Z growing up, food companies are taking a closer look at the concerns and preferences of this influential generation. From social media to health to snacking, here’s what you need to know about Gen Z.


  • Gen Z is large, diverse, and educated.
  • Gen Z loves to snack, creating a number of opportunities for brands.
  • Authentic brands and share-worthy products influence Gen Z on social media.
  • The environment and mental health are important concerns for Gen Z.

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the generation born after 1996, with the oldest members turning 26 this year. Gen Z is now the largest generation in the world, having recently surpassed Millennials.

Gen Z is also the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the US has ever seen. Just over half (52%) are non-Hispanic white, while 25% are Hispanic, 14% are black, and 6% are Asian.1

In the US, Gen Z is on track to becoming the most educated generation. Compared to other generations, Gen Z is less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to go to college, according to early data.

Four Things Brands Should Know About Gen Z

To help brands connect with this growing generation, here are four characteristics of Gen Z to know:

1. Gen Z Snacking Trends

Gen Z is more likely to snack and has a higher rate of online snack purchasing than other generations.3 Over a third prefer snacks to meals when working from home, while more than a quarter have bought more snacks online than in-store.4 More Gen Z report snacking for comfort (72%) than any other generation.5

(Check out our tips on developing snacks that are just right for Gen Z.)

Products for late-night snacking and snacks featuring global flavors are key opportunities (with 43% of US Gen Z agreeing snacks are a good way to try out international flavors).6 Even for meals, Gen Z values convenience, with 54% looking for convenient/on-the-go versions.7 Gen Z skews higher than the North American average for using ready meals and meal kits at home.8

guy reaching for pizza

2. Social Media Influence on Gen Z

As the first generation to grow up with the smartphone, Gen Z is comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their experiences through the digital world, with friends, and more broadly. Since Gen Z foodies are likely to share their latest food finds on social media, brands should make sure products targeting Gen Z are share-worthy—for example, through bold flavors or exciting visuals.

Authenticity is important to Gen Z, so brands and influencers need to be trustworthy and offer information or products that provide real value. Gen Z’s favorite social media platform is TikTok (33%), followed by Snapchat (31%) and Instagram (22%), with Netflix (30%) and YouTube (30%) being the standout video platforms.9

3. Environmentally Focused

Gen Z also cares strongly about the environment, even outshining Millennials on certain metrics. For example, 32% of Gen Z adults took action to address climate change within the year surveyed, either by donating money, volunteering, attending a rally, or contacting an elected official.10 This is higher than among Millennials (28%), Gen X (23%), and Boomers (21%).11

woman protesting

Gen Z is also considering reducing food waste, though the environment isn’t the only driver. Social reasons and peer pressure are also likely to influence Gen Z to minimize food waste (more so than other generations).12 Upcycled ingredients are an opportunity here since 46% of Gen Z say a product with upcycled ingredients is more appealing to them.13

4. Health and Wellness

This generation is also concerned about health and wellness—especially their mental health and wellness. Nearly one in four Gen Z has chosen foods or beverages to improve their mood in the past year, while one in five has chosen foods or beverages to boost their focus.14 Almost a quarter believe it’s worth paying more for functional ingredients that can boost mental health.15 

While improving mental focus and short-term energy is at the top of their list for desirable functions in a food or beverage, building muscle tone (20%) and improving physical appearance like skin, hair, and nails (17%) are close behind.16

Looking Ahead

As the younger members of Gen Z transition into adulthood and begin to make more of their own purchasing decisions, food and beverage companies that are ready with the right types of products will have a big advantage.

Snacks that offer comfort or global adventure, functional products with mental or cognitive benefits, and the use of sustainable solutions like upcycled ingredients are all strategies that can resonate with Gen Z. On social media, authentic brands and share-worthy products will be the most influential with this generation.

Contact us to learn more about our snack solutions and ingredients for health and wellness—from bioactives to proteins to custom premixes solutions for your Gen Z products.


1-2. Fry, R. and Parker, K., Early Benchmarks Show ‘Post-Millennials’ on Track to Be Most Diverse, Best-Educated Generation Yet, Pew Research Center, November 15, 2018.
3-4. Innova Top Gen Z snacking trends, 2023.
5. The Hartman Group, Snacking: Emerging, Evolving, and Disrupted, 2021.
6. Mintel, 2022.
7-8. Innova Top Gen Z snacking trends, 2023.
9. Piper Sandler, Taking Stock With Teens, 2022.

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