Much of the talk in marketing these days focuses on connecting with Millennials and Boomers, as both groups are acting differently from their predecessors and are in dramatically shifting life stages. While this is a sound approach, it’s important to continue focusing on the future and prepare for the up-and-coming Generation Z. Aged about 20 years and younger, this group is assumed by many to be an extension of the Millennial generation, but as with all generations, there are differences that require marketers to fine-tune their messages.

As Millennials became adults and began purchasing goods for their own homes, there was a noticeable shift in favor of smaller, niche, local brands. Bigger is not necessarily better for Millennials, as they express distrust toward large, multi-national brands. Prevailing sentiments among Gen Z, however, represent a shift in this thinking. As our new report, Make It Happen for Gen Z , shows, in many ways, Gen Z consumers think of themselves as having a personal brand with a story and values by which to live. They seek brands that support their story, and they are willing to use them regardless of a brand’s size. In the food industry, marketers need to understand that this generation grew up knowing that food is for much more than sustenance; food represents culture and therefore is an expression of who they are. Attributes like flavor and function have been engrained in them since they were very young, and therefore Gen Z consumers seek brands that deliver on these values and attributes regardless of the size.

And if we thought Millennials grew up in a digitally connected time, Gen Zs might as well be considered born computer literate. Their expectations for technology reach every aspect of their lives, including food acquisition, preparation, and recipe ideas. For example, our Kitchen Audit  historically has found cookbooks to be the number-one source home cooks use for recipes, but in just the last decade, online sources now share that top spot among all adults. Looking at only younger adults, however, reveals their top source for recipes is social media, so as they take over kitchen duties we should expect online recipe sources to take the top spot overall.

Our report, Inside Americas’ Kitchens, shows some of the top-growing appliances in today’s kitchen reflect a desire to have the work completed for the cook, while still having a fresh meal at the end. New technology adds several new entrants to this space, including sous-vide cookers, air fryers, multi-cookers, and smart appliances. Many of these appliances are still new and expensive for the average consumer, but mass production may help prices come down as younger Gen Z consumers enter adulthood. It’s important to make sure your food solutions work well with these new technologies so they can be part of the convenience consumers demand.

Gen Zs are similar to Millennials in that they demand freshness, purity, and authenticity in the products they use. Even more than Millennials, Gen Z consumers say clean eating improves their quality of life, and fresh foods play a large role in this lifestyle. They’re also following through with this sentiment in their actions – Gen Z accounts for some of the heaviest use of organic and non-GMO foods.