Reading the Gen Z tea leaves

Gen Z – generally those born between 1995 and 2008 – are a living case study of the long-term impacts of COVID, and our first opportunity to adjust foodservice offerings to meet their evolving needs. Here are a few insights and implications we’ve gathered together from the experts at Mintel and Datassential as 2022 takes shape.

Feeling stressed?
83% of Gen Z’ers say life is stressful; 23% say it’s very stressful
*Mintel October 2021

If you’re an older generation, you’d probably agree with the sentiment about feeling stressed; it’s not unique to Gen Z. But when you add in the fact that over half (54%) of US 18-24s experience anxiety and almost a quarter (24%) claim to suffer from clinical depression, you can see the extent to which these younger consumers are feeling the strain.  

Food does seem to be part of the solution for Gen Z; some with a focus on wellness and “better for me” lifestyle, and partly by seeking comfort and escape through what’s on the plate. Looking at the comfort side of the scale, here are the facts on Gen Z and Pasta:

Among Gen Z who are vegans or vegetarians, love for pasta is even higher. For Gen Z foodies, more still! When it comes to Mac and Cheese, Gen Z love for this all-time comfort food is higher than all other demographic groups.
(source for the above: Datassential, 2022)

But it’s not all about indulgence here; interestingly, Gen Z are more likely to have tried chickpea pasta and gluten free pasta, and more likely to love/like chickpea pasta than the general population. And there’s interest in global flavors, too – the top 5 trending international cuisines for Gen Z are Filipino, Indian, Chinese, Italian and Latin. *Mintel International Cuisine Tracker, November 2021

What to make of all this? Comfort foods like pasta dishes that mix in healthy twists or global flavors are well positioned to appeal to the diverse tastes of Gen Z. For more insights on Gen Z, check out what some of the leaders in College & University Dining are seeing and serving around the country.