A Complex Relationship Between Gen Z and Food

Recent research conducted by Ketchum in the US, a global communications consultancy, sheds light on the intricate dynamics between Generation Z (Gen Z) and their relationship with food. While Gen Z has often been lauded as the “foodie generation,” Ketchum’s findings suggest a more nuanced and potentially troubling aspect of this food-focused demographic. The research delves into the attitudes and beliefs of Gen Z toward food, uncovering a range of themes that highlight the pressures, influences, and evolving behaviors that define their culinary choices.

Pressure and Identity: The Strain on Gen Z

Ketchum’s study reveals that a significant 61% of Gen Z individuals have experienced pressure since childhood to define themselves through their dietary choices. This pressure to align food consumption with personal identity and beliefs has generated an undercurrent of negativity and anxiety within this generation that’s often associated with its enthusiasm for food. It’s noteworthy that 62% of Gen Z respondents admit to perceiving their eating patterns as “wrong,” indicating a profound disconnect between their ideals and their actions.

This discrepancy, referred to as the “say-eat gap,” illustrates that while Gen Z places considerable importance on factors such as sustainability, animal welfare, and LGBTQ rights when considering food purchases, these values don’t necessarily drive their actual decisions. In a surprising twist, practical concerns like taste, affordability, and value appear to outweigh these deeply held beliefs.

Melissa Kinch, President of Ketchum’s Food Consultancy, underscores this phenomenon, observing, “Since early childhood, this generation has seen food politicized and been taught to choose food products related to values. 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’s Dual Role: Inspiration and Anxiety

Gen Z’s embrace of digital culture has propelled their food obsession onto platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, where they eagerly explore new cuisines and experiment in their kitchens. However, this engagement with social media has both positive and negative implications. While these platforms serve as sources of inspiration, allowing Gen Z to discover creative recipes and connect with influencers, 67% express concern about excessive time spent on social media. Furthermore, 58% believe that social media negatively impacts their body image, highlighting the complex emotional landscape that surrounds their online experiences.

Interestingly, despite these anxieties, Gen Z remains optimistic, expressing a desire for food to elicit feelings of happiness, relaxation, health, and confidence.

Forging a Distinct Culinary Path

Amidst the pressures they face, Gen Z members are carving their own culinary trajectories. The research shows that 68% of Gen Z individuals cook differently from their parents, and their eating habits also diverge significantly from those of earlier generations. A notable trend is the popularity of “snackifying” meals, wherein 55% of Gen Z respondents regularly transform snacks into complete meals, giving rise to the viral hashtag #girldinner. However, it’s pertinent to note that this behavior is not limited to any specific gender, as both Gen Z men and women equally engage in this practice.

Melissa Kinch advises companies and brands looking to connect with Gen Z to consider the impact of virtue signaling and to tap into Gen Z’s quest for stability to demonstrate how their products can bring joy. She notes, “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.”

For a deeper understanding of Ketchum’s research findings on Gen Z’s intricate relationship with food, as well as access to the full report, please visit https://www.ketchum.com/gen-z-food-report/download-report-thank-you/.


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