A Gen-Zer Speaks: What Resonates And What Doesn't

Editor's Note: Much attention is paid to the attitudes, habits, and drivers of younger consumers when it comes to purchasing specialty foods. With some Gen-Zers (currently ages 12-24) starting to come of age, eyes are on these young adults to see how they may differ from millennials and what they care about that may impact food's future. The Specialty Food Association recently hosted 18-year-old Kelsey Crane, a high school senior at Moravian Academy, for a week-long internship as part of her graduation requirements. Here, she shares in her own words what resonates and what doesn't as a young specialty food consumer.

As a Gen-Zer, I look for two main factors in products when I go grocery shopping. First, packaging: How does it look and feel? Is it minimalist? Is it environmentally friendly? Eye-catching packaging is a huge part of how I find the products that I use today or buy to try out. I am drawn to things that stand out in an aisle of similar-looking items. I like packaging that is simplistic, straightforward, and clear to what the item is. Plain colors with big, bold lettering are popular because they differ from highly designed, wordy packaging. If the packaging is straight to the point, I'm likely to pick that item over another. I want packaging that describes what the product contains so I don’t have to research to know more.

Second is nutrition. Is it plant-based? Does it have bad oils? Is it possibly oil-free? How many ingredients did it take to make this product and is it unprocessed? And, most importantly, is it good for me? I want to know the nutritional value and how it benefits me before I buy a product. Popular items such as matcha, avocado, acai, and chia seeds all are dense in nutrients and advertise that fact.

I can spend quite some time in a grocery store making sure everything is up to standards. I read every inch of a box, package, bag, or even labels on produce. My standards are pretty high because I am health-oriented, and I have noticed that most people my age generally are as well. I hear my high school peers asking what foods in the cafeteria are healthy, and questioning whether they should get the school’s french fries--or go to the salad bar.

When I go out to eat, I look for vegan options, or at least alternatives and adjustments that are easily made by restaurants. I research the restaurant before I eat there; are foods locally sourced, or international? Are they fresh? Are there healthy options? Restaurants that are locally based and public markets or food halls that are open with communal tables and multiple places to pick from are things I strongly consider when I go out. Public markets are great to spend time with friends--everyone has different options and each stand supports the others. Local restaurants where you feel like family because you may know the owner, and know where the food comes from, makes that experience so much better.

Grocery stores, farmers and public markets are immediate go-tos for me. Grocery stores are great places to get specialty foods and you can count on them to carry products that are specific to your needs and desires. You’re also likely to find products that support international ethical production, fair trade, and that have a story about how the product was founded. I find that going to farmers and public markets is important to support locally sourced produce and the community, and you can trust that your produce is fresh. Farmers markets can support local events, charities, and fundraisers as well. Families and friends tend to raise money at farmers and public markets where I live, and it makes me want to help out too. It’s great to be in a space with my own community. 

Nutrition is more important to people as they realize the long-term effect it has on them. Products and brands that focus specifically on health, such as kombucha, salad chains, and real-fruit smoothie companies, are trendy and popular. Longevity is what most people strive for, therefore there is a spiked interest in choosing food that  keeps us healthy, happy, and living longer. I think this is a different mindset for our generation than it was for older generations. My grandmother no longer uses many products she had used for years because she is surrounded by a generation that tells her the importance of nutrition and why that product can be harmful. Education is also different because many products and food sources that were considered healthy before our time, are now deemed harmful. Our research, technology, and care for our well-being is a lot different than it used to be, but I think that it is a good change. Our future seems to be bright--and healthy. 
Posted by Denise Purcell on Jun 4, 2019 11:00 AM America/New_York