Gen Z Target Flavor Experiences

Gen Z consumers have shown themselves to be highly experiential in their attitudes to food and drink flavors. Compared with older generations, they are more likely to say that new and different flavors influence their purchases, while they also over-indexed the average for their interest in flavors that deliver sensory excitement or enhance their mood.

Indulgent experiences appear to be particularly important, with Gen Zs demonstrating a very sweet tooth. More than 1 in 4 claims to have chosen more indulgent flavors in desserts, sweet bakery and confectionery categories over the past 12 months. As with most age groups, brown flavors are a core focus for their indulgence, but innovators are looking beyond plain chocolate or caramel tastes to add greater value. For example, Starbucks’ Frappuccino range of chilled coffee drinks, popular with a youthful audience, has witnessed the addition of a new Passport Series this year, inspired by flavors from around the world. Launched in the US, these include the likes of Chocolate Churro or Caramel Flan varieties, giving novel twists to familiar brown flavors.

The international nature of these flavors also reflects another strong focus when targeting Gen Zs. As well as choosing more indulgent tastes, they also have a heightened preference for adopting more exotic or world flavors. These international choices can also differ from the norm; for example, European cuisines are seen as the most important international inspiration in daily meals across all generations, but among Gen Zs Asian cuisine leads the way. Within this, they also over-index for interest in Japanese foods. Many Japanese-inspired foodservice brands, which are popular with younger consumers, have spilled over into the retail arena. The Itsu chains offers a wide range of retail products, with recent additions in the UK including pot meals and vegetarian/vegan choices, both of which concepts will also resonate with a younger age group, e.g. Hotsu’Potsu Lucky Katsu veg gyoza dumplings with noodles and hand-crafted katsu broth.

Fusion and hybrid products are also used to add novelty value with youth appeal. Interest in foreign cuisine can be intensified when two disparate flavors are combined in the same product, such as Old El Paso’s Korean BBQ taco kits, launched in Canada at the end of 2021. Meanwhile, hybrid products combining retail and foodservice concepts also deliver value for Gen Zs, e.g. Lay’s Iconic Restaurant Flavors potato chips, launched in Europe, with varieties such as Pizza Hut Margherita, KFC Original Recipe Chicken or Subway Teriyaki (the last of these also benefiting from those Japanese influences).

Novel brown flavors
Novel brown flavors: Japanese dishes: Itsu Hotsu’Potsu Lucky Katsu (United Kingdom, Feb 2022);Starbucks Frappuccino Passport Series – Chocolate Churro (United States, Jan 2022); Kombucha with botanicals: Tcha Kombucha with Hibiscus, Pineapple and Mint (Brazil, Aug 2021); Non-specific flavors: Coca-Cola Creations Starlight Space Flavored Zero Calorie Cola (United States, Feb 2022)

Being ‘on-trend’ is a major driver for younger consumers, so they are a significant audience for the latest fashions in food and drink. Consumer research shows that Gen Zs are a little reluctant when it comes to trying more unusual botanical flavors, but they seem to be more open to these if they are found in fashionable or trendy products. For example, they show above-average interest in kombucha fermented tea drinks and this category has become an important stamping ground for botanical tastes. As an example, the Tchá Kombucha range, launched in Brazil in 2021 includes such flavors as hibiscus-pineapple-mint, lemon-turmeric-ginger-green tea and tangerine-green tea-basil.

Finally, adding an element of ‘cool’ to a flavor does not have to be specific. It is already the case that many youth-oriented products use more obscure flavor descriptors, e.g. Bang energy drink’s Purple Haze, Chobani’s Blue Wahoo yogurt or Kroger’s Tie Dye Burst ice cream. More recently, Coca-Cola has launched a Creations platform for flavor innovation and new experiences in taste. The first product to come out of the Creations scheme is limited edition Coca-Cola Starlight, a cola which is said to evoke “the feeling of a journey to space”. Without further detail of the taste, it is a product that simply has to be experienced first-hand and as such, it is ideal for the experiential Generation Z.

“Gen Z: Desire for Indulgent, Exciting & Unique Flavors” is a new Flavor Insider report from Innova Market Insights. Through consumer research and analysis of new product activity, it assesses the interest of Gen Z consumers in indulgent, exotic and exciting flavors and looks at the ways in which innovators are targeting these customers and themes.

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