What does the future of food look like? It’s a big but crucial question for anyone in the food manufacturing and innovation space, however it’s easier asked than answered. While none of us has a crystal ball, one of the best ways of predicting where food is headed is by exploring the world of up and coming consumers who will shape the future food landscape as their purchasing power grows. Right now, this is Generation Z.
Our latest consumer insights research has done exactly that, taking us deep into the world of Gen Z and their needs, attitudes and behaviours when it comes to food, to better understand what the future of food may look like, and where macadamias have an opportunity to play a role.
What Gen Z expect from food is markedly different to the expectations of the generations that have preceded them. Here we reveal the narratives around food that emerged from this research, and how macadamias fit within them, as well as five key innovation hotspots for the use of macadamias in food products targeting Gen Z in both Asian and Western markets.
Who is Gen Z, what’s their worldview and can macadamias fit into that?
The definition of Gen Z in this research is people born between 1995 and 2005, currently aged 15 to 25. It’s the generation that comes after Millennials.
Gen Z has grown up in a time of flux, fluidity and mass disruption and are no strangers to innovation. With a heightened sense of health and environmental awareness, Gen Z’s expectations around food are high but they also demand ‘different’.
While they view the world very differently to older generations, their thinking and behaviours present spaces in which macadamias can comfortably and naturally play.
The big bad world: Shifting socio and economical contexts are creating uncertain futures for Gen Z as they complete their education and enter the ‘big bad world’, where nothing is set in stone. They’re likely to buy premium products or splurge on little luxuriesto provide a sense of happiness in the moment. Macadamias have the potential to premiumise products, create a greater sense of indulgence and provide the comfort they’re seeking.
The live and let go generation: The uncertainty of the future has created a generation that wish to regret nothing! Gen Z live for the now and won’t back down from a challenge. They’re more open to new food experiences, experimenting with ingredient and flavor combinations and looking for products that do the same. Macadamias have the taste and texture to complement a range of new flavour and product profiles to appeal to this market.
Digital natives expressing individuality: They won’t be pigeon-holed, and the online world enables them to show their true colours, or portray a curated image they wish the world to see. Gen Z see food as an expression of who they are, allowing them to showcase their unique self. Macadamias are a versatile and multi-faceted ingredient that offer up endless possibilities for use in products.
Right here, right now: They’re the on-demand generation – whatever they want is on tap. Convenience is not just king, it’s a way of life. They seek convenient food solutions, without a nutrition, quality or taste trade off, including high quality pre-prepared options. The meal kit upgrade witnessed in the West during COVID-19 saw consumers enjoying creative, indulgent and almost-complete meals that they could finish cooking at home, with more authentic and specialist formats and ingredients likely on the horizon. Macadamias have the functional nutritional benefits needed to play in the on-the-go and convenience-focused space.
The key food narratives of Gen Z
Gen Z’s food preferences have evolved from those of previous generations, and the research revealed some key narratives that dominated their expectations around food.
Taking a closer look at each of these narratives, the research revealed that macadamias were relevant across the board.
The Dalgona effect speaks to the fact that for Gen Z, food is a form of social currency in a 24/7 sharable world. These consumers expect the food that they purchase to look as good as it tastes. Products with new and unique flavours, textures, colours and layers create experiential currencythat Gen Z values. They want to be trendsetters within their peer group, and discovering a unique flavor combination, limited edition or exclusive food brand partnership has the ability to elevate their social status and create excitement amongst their tribe.
Macadamias are relevant here because: they can add that unique edge to products visually (crumbs, textures, garnishes) and texturally (creaminess, crunch). In Asia particularly there’s intrigue in new flavours and formats and cross-category fusion e.g.; companion packs to go with morning yoghurt, coffee or afternoon tea.
Pimp my snack reveals that the lines of traditional meal times and sizes are blurring for Gen Z, and they’re seeking to mix and match dynamic food choices. They don’t feel confined by the typical parameters or rules of food, and they are inspired to push the boundaries and be creative. They’re rejecting traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner in favour of many mini meals in a day. What’s more, anything goes, any time. Salad for breakfast, eggs for dinner, a 10pm and midnight snack? This is normal behavior for Gen Z. When you eat around the clock like this, easily accessible food is key.
Macadamias are relevant here because: they’re the ultimate versatile ingredient and can talk to different occasions and benefits. There’s an opportunity to push the boundaries of the ingredients they’re combined with to dial up their power to pimp snacks, given that seemingly nothing is off limits.
Cultural rediscovery is the bi-product of global fusion, allowing Gen Z to borrow each other’s cuisines while creating a re-appreciation of their own. Family heritage, neighbours, friends and colleagues readily provide them with new perspectives on food, ingredients and what a ‘classic’ dish is, while Smartphones and TV present unparalleled access to global food trends, with popular programs, YouTubers and food bloggers filling screens with exciting new foods and showing Gen Z how to recreate them.
Macadamias are relevant here because: they hold potential to act as direct replacements for traditional ingredients in Asian food, speaking to global fusion while recognising heritage.
Feel good food speaks to Gen Z’s desire to make positive food choices and feel good about what they eat. In Western markets, a move away from meat and dairy is motivated by the ‘greater good’, and there’s a continued gravitation towards many forms of sustainability including plant-based, mindful meat eating, waste reduction and eco packaging. In the USA, 65% of Gen Z say they want a more ‘plant-forward’ diet, more than 30% intend to be entirely meat free by 2021 and 44% think being vegan is cooler than smoking. In Asia, the desire to make good choices is borne out of a focus on personal benefit and food safety and quality needs.
Macadamias are relevant here because: as a natural, plant-based ingredient, there’s ample opportunity to use macadamias to increase the feel-good factor across a range of product innovations targeting younger consumers in the West. In Asian markets, Australian grown macadamias can be an appealing and differentiated ingredient for Gen Z due to positive provenance associations and nutritional benefits.
Healthy delicious is seeing a rejection of the traditional view that ‘healthy’ food must be bland and boring. Gen Z consumers are prepared to pay a premium for healthy products that are all natural, GMO-free, sustainable, or vitamin-fortified. They’re drawn to ingredients and products that replicate favourite flavours in more nutritious form, such as cacao, nut butters and dates. Focused on fueling their bodies with protein, healthy fats and anti-oxidants, this is more than just physical, with Western Gen Zs highly aware of maintaining good mental wellbeing too.
Macadamias are relevant here because: they have powerful health credentials to leverage, whilst leaning on both taste and texture. They add a no-compromise, nutritious boost to food, that can supercharge a ‘goodness’ proposition, whilst tasting great.
The macadamia innovation hotspots for food brands targeting Gen Z
Food manufacturers take note: macadamias are an appealing and resonating ingredient for Gen Z, with a host of benefits that make them an exciting and relevant ingredient for new product development.
From their creamy taste, unique mouthfeel and versatility to their Australian origin and nutritional benefits, the research revealed that younger consumers in both Western and Asian markets recognise a variety of desirable benefits associated with macadamias.
Five key innovation opportunities to engage and excite Gen Z with macadamias emerged from the study.