Generation Z Trends and Beyond: Global Consumer Overview

Explore key generational differences within the global food and beverage industry

June 14, 2024 – The food and beverage industry is constantly evolving, driven by a complex interplay of factors like technology, sustainability, and individual preferences. But one of the most significant influences on consumer behavior is generational splits. From financial concerns to health priorities, and the growing importance of sustainability, here we unveil the key drivers behind each generation’s place in the market. We will also explore how these differences translate into specific product preferences, and overall consumption patterns.

Generational Profiles

Generation Z trends research indicates that the generation is characterized by their low household disposable income, lack of work experience, and single status. They are in the exploration stage of their careers, highly invested in physical exercise, and prioritize skin health and energy stamina. While they are socially active and enjoy mingling in various locations, digital platforms are essential for their connection and entertainment.

Millennials have more disposable income due to increased expertise and authority at work and are often living with two people’s paychecks. They prioritize exercise and healthy food choices, focusing on heart health and stamina. Similar to Gen Z, they are concerned about stress and anxiety, and prefer socializing at home. However, they are more experienced with technology than Gen Z.

Generation X are characterized by their high income, with many reaching career plateaus. They are physically active and emphasize bone and joint health for healthy aging. Their satisfaction levels are similar to Millennials, with anxiety being a shared concern. They prefer socializing at home and are experienced with technology.

Boomers have a medium income and are often retired with steady income sources like pensions. They prioritize food and are the most concerned about aging. Memory and agility are key concerns, and they prefer socializing at home. While they are digitally acquainted, they are less reliant on technology than younger generations.

Megatrends and Generation Trends

Key shifts in consumer behavior across generations are partly driven by global megatrends, including factors like inflation, health concerns, and sustainability.

While inflation and financial constraints are top of mind for all generations, younger consumers (Gen Z and Millennials) exhibit a more optimistic outlook. Generation Z trends research shows 27% of Gen Z say that they invest into foods, beverages, and experiences that uplift their mood, while older generations (Gen X and Boomers) are more likely to cut back on expenses and prioritize saving.

Across all generations, there’s a strong emphasis on healthy living, with nutritious diets and physical exercise being key priorities. Eating healthily is the number one eating-related value for all generations, chosen by 43% of consumers, even over affordability. Gen Z is particularly focused on mental health, with stress and anxiety being major concerns. Millennials prioritize energy and stamina, while Gen X focuses on heart health. Boomers, on the other hand, are most concerned with memory and agility, reflecting their age-related concerns.

Sustainability is a growing concern for all generations, with different generations demonstrating more attentiveness to specific types of environmental consciousness. Younger generations are more likely to choose products with low environmental impact, and support brands that advocate for social causes. However, older generations are more prone to minimize their food waste, avoid overconsumption, and prioritize choosing local, seasonal produce.

Generation Z Trends

Health and Wellbeing Across Generations

Generation Z trends research indicates the generation prioritizes mental health, with stress and anxiety being their top concerns. They are also highly invested in physical activity and prioritize energy and stamina. Skin health is another significant concern for this generation, reflecting their focus on appearance and self-esteem.

Millennials share similar concerns with Generation Z regarding stress and anxiety, but also place a strong emphasis on heart health and overall stamina. They are motivated to manage their weight for reasons such as enhancing self-esteem and physical appeal, as well as preventing chronic conditions.

Generation X is more satisfied with their mental health compared to younger generations, but they are more concerned about sleep and insomnia. They are also physically active and prioritize bone and joint health, reflecting their focus on healthy aging.

Boomers are the most satisfied with their mental health, but they are concerned about memory and mental agility. They are also highly focused on healthy aging, prioritizing bone and joint health, and are motivated to maintain their physical and mental well-being.

Pleasure and Enjoyment Between Generations

Two in five consumers consider freshness as the most important element in enjoying food and beverage products. While this preference is shared across generations, there are some key differences in many other indicators of enjoyment. For instance, seniors prioritize nutrition and realness, while younger generations favor taste discovery and sweetness. Multiple products can be noticed catering to these interests, advertising nutritional, fresh elements, as well as rich, novel flavors.

What’s Next in Generation Z Trends and Beyond?

The distinct generational differences identified through Innova’s consumer trend research can unlock brand opportunities for the future. Gen Z and Millennials are especially concerned with their mental and emotional health. Generation Z trend research shows that the generation tends to invest in food and beverage that uplifts their mood or alleviates boredom. Brands can leverage this through developing products that offer nutrients for mood improvement or exciting sensory experiences to alleviate boredom. Gen Z and Millennials are also keenly aware of their skin health, as it is their top physical concern. Appearance matters to these younger generations, and brands can develop products that tap into these attitudes through promoting skin health related claims on their packaging.

For older generations, their health focus falls on preventing or managing chronic conditions. Functional ingredients in products can help incentivize these consumers in their choices, allowing them to improve their overall health through their diet. Honesty and transparency are also important eating values for seniors, emphasizing nutrition and realness as drivers of enjoyment and pleasure in food. Natural and nutritious products will likely continue to be enticing to this demographic.


This article is based on our report, “Generational Differences – Global​.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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