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 Gen Z is Hungry For More Sustainable

Food & Beverage Options

The single leading concern for Gen-Z is the environment and climate change. Another massive concern, heightened by the pandemic, is personal health. Put the two together, and you’ve stumbled into the growing market of sustainable foods.  Sustainable agriculture promotes a food system revolving around both individual health and the health of our planet.  And Gen Z has made it clear that sustainability matters to them. According to a study in Sustainability, 92.8% of Gen Z consider the environment and health when they’re making food purchasing decisions.

Sustainable foods provide options for a balanced diet that promotes nutrition, cultivated with farming practices that don’t endanger the environment. It’s easy to see why that appeals to health-conscious, environmentally-minded Gen Z. Let’s take a look at what they’re putting on their plates and why:

Plant-based & home grown sustainable food options

Globally, there’s been a massive shift towards plant-based diets and whole food diets including legumes, beans, fruits, grains, and vegetables. These diets are far more nutritious than processed foods and have less environmental impact as well. Processed foods require additional steps, such as chemical additives and preservatives, and take machinery and distribution chains. The meat and dairy industries require foods to be grown and transported for animal feed, then animals to be prepared for consumption including packaging and refrigeration. The environmental impact is high. With such a high focus on climate change, plant based alternatives will continue to gain popularity.

Another option besides trying out plant-based diets? Home-grown foods. Even people in busy apartments are realizing they can start herb gardens. More consumers are trying to grow some of their own foods to both lower costs, eat healthier, and reduce transportation cycles in the food chain. EIT Food found that 74% of Gen Z consumers believe fruit and vegetable farming and local farming to be the two most sustainable forms of agriculture, and according to Forbes, 67% of American adults either actively grow food or plan to in the near future.

Self-grown food is sustainable, healthy, and economical, saving many people money in the long run. It also involves no plastic or otherwise disposable packaging, a growing concern for Gen Z, as landfill waste continues to grow and impact climate change.

Video: how these options satisfy Gen Z’s appetite

Why take it from us when Knit specializes in providing our brand partners with Gen Z Voice of Consumer Video InsightsWhen we asked Gen Z whether the pandemic prompted them to buy or try more sustainable food options, they cited a switch to plant-based and home-grown foods to help feed their desire for healthier, more eco-friendly options.

There’s no doubt that sustainability was a growing concern among many members of Gen-Z before the pandemic. However, with lockdowns and crippling supply chain issues, the pandemic threw sustainability and sustainable eating into an entirely new light. In 2020 we found that the lockdowns turned Gen Z into budding chefs. The number of Gen Z using prepackaged meals — even during the height of the pandemic and lockdown measures — was low at only 4%, with a full 65% buying fresh produce and grains to cook with. 

Many of those burgeoning chefs turned to TikTok for inspiration, especially as the pandemic continued. Gen Z was already the fastest growing group of TikTok users and adoption only surged with Zoomers.

Chef Gordon Ramsay debuted a vegan bacon on TikTok, followed almost instantly by other companies including MyEats and Vegan Zeastar, which makes vegan seafood alternatives.. Meat alternatives like Impossible and Beyond popped up in TikToks, homes, and even fast food restaurants across the country. And as a move towards plant-based grew, pushes towards more sustainable packaging grew as well. 

According to a survey of over 350 chefs in the National Restaurant Association, sustainability ranked as one of the chief trends of 2021 and 2022, including a move to more plant-based options and more sustainable packaging, including biodegradable or compostable food boxes and utensils. 

As supply chain woes struck much of the world, particularly during the Omicron wave, the desire for sustainability grew. Stores ran out of meat, milk, and fresh produce. Pictures of empty store shelves bombarded social media. And the supply chain itself, something once practically invisible, was brought into sharp focus.

The rise of sustainable food brands

While initial movements into fairtrade and organic products have made slight ripples in the past, the focus on sustainable products and alternatives to products once deemed staples grows daily. Now, many products are launching entire business models based on sustainability. Dug, a potato milk brand, launched their product in 2022 with a campaign built around the milk’s ability to yield so much milk with little to no carbon footprint.  

Beyond Foods is a massively popular company that offers plant-based meat alternatives. Gen Z is buying more of these alternatives, but they’re also looking for options that extend beyond just foods. Many Zoomers have started looking beyond individual product offerings and are now evaluating companies themselves. 

This awareness of a company’s focus on sustainability can be key in landing the business of the environmentally and health conscious Gen Z: two thirds of Gen Z shoppers say they always factor a company’s sustainablity practices into their purchasing decisions, and 73% are  willing to pay more for sustainable products, including food. 
Sustainability matters to Gen Z, so environmentally conscious packaging and a focus on sustainability are more likely to earn their business. The influence of social media apps like TikTok and Instagram in promoting sustainable foods is undeniable. Now is the perfect time for companies to consider their sustainability practices to meet this new demand.

Wondering how you can put sustainability on the menu for the generation of consumers that’s hungry for change? Knit can help. We connect brands to the nation’s largest panel of Gen Z consumers to deliver insights that can guide your brand strategy and help you connect with next-gen shoppers. Just hit the button below to get started.

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