Inside the Palate of Gen Z: Trending Flavors and Ingredients

June 1, 20232 min
Lauren Daniels photo
Lauren Daniels Tastewise

We’re diving into the world of Gen Z consumers and their evolving needs. This group of young adults, born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2010s, are known for their unique perspectives on life and the world around them.

They have grown up in a digital age, with access to an unprecedented amount of information at their fingertips. As a result, their tastes and preferences are constantly evolving, and businesses that want to succeed in the current market need to understand what makes this generation tick.

Below, we’ll explore the key drivers behind Gen Z’s consumption habits and how brands can cater to their needs in a way that resonates with this discerning and influential group of consumers.

Functional health and experiences rank high with Gen Z

We identified a growing trend among Gen Z consumers who are seeking functional health benefits from the food and beverages they consume. Of particular concern is depression, which has experienced the highest year-over-year growth rate in terms of functional health requirements. This trend is attributed to post-pandemic stress and the economic recession.

At the same time, Gen Z consumers are also focused on the experience of consumption. For this group, the “celebration” experience is one of the most significant social spaces. Going out with friends or creating an event around the moment of consumption is a vital aspect of the Gen Z consumer’s experience. Therefore, food and beverage brands that can provide both functional health benefits and a memorable consumption experience are more likely to resonate with Gen Z consumers.

According to a recent article by WGSN, “Concerned about their wellbeing and the impact of alcohol on their mood, mental health, and alertness, Gen Zers are drinking less alcohol than the generations before them.

The rise of mood food and alcohol-free drinks is tapping into this alcohol-alternative consumer.” This shift reflects the growing trend among Gen Z consumers who prioritize functional health benefits and memorable consumption experiences in their food and beverage choices.

Japanese and Asian flavors and ingredients are hugely popular

According to data from the United States, Japanese cuisine is dominating the Gen Z social space with 2.5% of the conversation, followed closely by French cuisine with 2.5%, and Asian cuisine with 1.9% of social discussion. In terms of the most popular ingredients and flavors in their mature phase, sushi is leading the pack with 31.6% of the social discussion.

Ramen is a close second with 15.4%, and sashimi comes in third with 5.6% of the social share. As Gen Z consumers continue to explore new and exciting flavors, food, and beverage brands that can incorporate these trending ingredients and flavors into their products are more likely to resonate with this group.

Additionally, these brands should be attuned to the unique cultural experiences and social aspects associated with these cuisines, which are also important factors for Gen Z consumers.

Veganism has a massive market share with health-focused Gen Z 

When it comes to Gen Z diets, there’s no denying that plant-based eating is leading the charge. Veganism has a commanding 2.5% share of the conversation among Gen Z, with vegetarianism coming in second with 1.9% and gluten-free diets coming in third with 1%. But it’s not just about what they’re not eating; Gen Z is also concerned about getting the right nutrients.

Protein takes first place with 1.6% of the social conversation, while alcohol-free comes in second with 0.4%, and Omega 3 takes third with 0.35%. It’s not just about physical health either; functional health benefits are also important to this generation.

With 6.5% of the vote, healthy options are in first place. Fitness is second with 0.9% and weight management is third with 0.5%. It’s clear that Gen Z is conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies and the impact it has on their overall well-being.

Understanding the needs and preferences of Gen Z consumers is essential for businesses looking to stay relevant in today’s market. Data shows that functional health benefits and unique consumption experiences are two key drivers for this generation, and brands that can cater to both are likely to resonate with Gen Z consumers.

The dominance of Japanese, French, and Asian cuisine in the social space and the popularity of sushi, ramen, and sashimi highlight the importance of incorporating trending ingredients and cultural experiences into food and beverage products.

The rise of plant-based diets and a focus on getting the right nutrients, with protein, alcohol-free, and Omega 3 at the forefront, underscore the importance of health and wellness for Gen Z consumers.

There’s much more to say about Gen Z preferences; the generational segment is not a monolith, and trends vary based on region, diet, and so much more. Want to learn more? Book a call with one of our trend insights specialists.

And, of course, join us for our next Tastewise Live session by signing up here.

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