Aged 17 and under, the so-called Gen Z represents 23% of US population, the same share as millennials (aged 18-34) and boomers (51-69), according to data by US Census and Pew Research Center cited in a research by Hartman Group. Millennials have already redefined industry trends, but it will be up to teenagers to raise food diversity to a new global level, potentially benefiting lesser-known regional products from Italy.
OVER ETHNIC CUSINE – Titled “Wired Youth and Wise Elders”, the report presented at FMI-Connect in Chicago in June analyzes the rising influence of boomers and teenagers in establishing eating habits. “Gen Z will be the first generation to use the term global over ethnic cuisine as they see ethnic as marginalizing food cultures outside of the more known European cuisines,” said Melissa Abbott, Vice President, Culinary Insights at the Hartman Group.
LEVERAGING LOCAL – Digital native, and constantly connected through social networks, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse group among millennials and boomers. “In terms of Italian food, Gen Z will expect greater hyper local and regional specificity among Italian ingredients to signify distinction beyond northern or southern Italian,” Abbott said. Like their previous generation, teenagers exercise and care about health and wellness. “More stringent sourcing of ingredients for traditional and popular Italian products and recipes will be the focus. From more humane treatment of animals as part of ingredients (grass-fed meat, dairy from cows that have not been treated with growth hormones, for example) to leveraging locale (San Marzano tomatoes, Parma ham, DOCG products),” the expert said.
COOKING AS FUN – Learning from boomers, they scrutinize labels, with 66% looking for ingredients they recognize, concerned about protein, calories, fat and sodium. They look to “organic” as a symbol of healthy food, while boomers see it as an absence of negatives. Cooking is a fun hobby for Gen Z, while it is a chore for the older cohort. “As Gen Z sets off on their own in the next 5-10 years, we can expect interest in lesser-known Italian products to be of greater importance as they are always on the search for the next new thing,” Abbott said.
By Antonella Ciancio