With a heightened sense of healthy and conscious snacking, Gen Z’s are demanding ‘different’: What does this look like?

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Adding macadamia nuts into snacks is a good proposition to appeal to Gen Zs. Pic: GettyImages/kolesnikovserg
Adding macadamia nuts into snacks is a good proposition to appeal to Gen Zs. Pic: GettyImages/kolesnikovserg

Related tags macadamia Australia Generation Z plant-based Nutrition Sustainability Transparency Environment

When it comes to food, Generation Zs have markedly different expectations than the generations before them, according to new research released by the Australian macadamia industry.

The 15-to-25-year-old group 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’.

So, what does that look like?

‘Different’ is a multi-layered proposition when it comes to Gen Zs.

Food is a form of social currency for this generation, so it has to look as good as it tastes, with extra points for technical, textural and flavour complexity. They want to mix-and-match in ways never seen before, as traditional meal times blur and pimped up snacking takes centre stage.

Breaking down the regions

They’re also fascinated with global food trends and embracing different perspectives on what a traditional dish is.

While young foodies in China seek out the latest products and ingredients to tick off their list, the research found that a big part of what they’re looking for is food that feels good. It’s this expectation that has Gen Zs seeking out brands they see as a positive choice, as they actively look for greater control and transparency on food and its origins.

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 US, 65% of Gen Zs say they want a more plant-forward diet, and 44% think being vegan is cooler than smoking. This year, 42% of Australians said they were eating less meat or none at all.  

Across the board, Gen Zs are rejecting the traditional view that healthy must be boring and are prepared to pay a premium for healthier offerings that taste good. And while they’re focused on fuelling their bodies with protein, healthy fats and antioxidants, it’s more than just physical – they are highly aware of maintaining good mental wellbeing, too.

The macadamia’s inherent versatility make it a highly relevant ingredient in the Gen Z space, striking the balance of health, convenience, luxury, uniqueness and sustainability.

Consumers are especially skewing towards plant-based lifestyles and the global plant based protein market is expected to more than double by 2025, reaching a total of $40.53bn. 

The secret ingredient

As a brand trying to appeal to a whole new generation that is arguably the most conscious cohort of consumers we’ve ever seen, what’s the secret ingredient?

According to Jim Richards, CEO of plant-based milk specialist milkadamia, the key is creating products that match the way consumers are identifying themselves.

“What we are currently seeing is a younger generation consumed by eco-concern,”​ said Richards.

“These people want ingredients and products that are part of the solution, not the problem.”

Innovation is important, contends Richards, but it’s often the means to the end rather than the end goal.

“They’re not looking for innovation per se, but they’re excited by products that are relevant to their lives and pertinent to what matters to them. Innovation is often needed in order to deliver that.

“Today’s consumers are looking for wellness, but the lens through which wellness is viewed has changed. It used to just mean good nutrition, but now, especially to younger generations, it’s so much bigger than that. Consumers want to be vital, energetic and well. But they also recognise that they can’t be well if everything around them isn’t well,”​ added Richards.

He noted the milkadamia brand talks as much about its eco and regenerative macadamia farming credentials as it does about taste and nutrition, because consumers are more interested in the bigger picture than ever before.

He also said consumers today are more excited about saying ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’.

“Previous generations had a list of ingredients they didn’t want to see in food products, whereas now it’s more about what people do want to see. Up and coming consumers want to embrace food in a positive way, which is why so many of them are shifting to plant based eating,”​ added Richards.

According to Australian Macadamia, the only native Australian crop to ever have been traded on a significant scale internationally as a commercial product is perfectly placed to meet rising expectations around healthy, convenient, indulgent and conscious snacking from demanding Gen Zs.

The nut is packed with nutrients, the sector is dedicated help create a sustainable future not only for themselves but also for the communities in which they work and, as the site contends, you can't beat the moreish, buttery taste of a good macadamia.

Macadamias are Australia’s fourth largest horticultural export. There are approximately 800 growers producing more than 45,000 tonnes per year, with 70% of the crop exported to more than 40 countries.

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