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Gen Z Analysis Reveals Them to Be Social Foodies

A new analysis of teenage conversation patterns by Engagement Labs shows the Gen Z cohort is highly talkative about brands, values convenience over destination retail and prefers restaurants that offer a social aspect.

A separate Engagement Labs study showed conversations about brands, on average, drive 19% of U.S. consumer purchases, representing between $7 and $10 trillion in annual sales. The new study, Gen Z: The TotalSocial Generation, reveals that Gen Z has 13.4 conversations about products and services on average each day, one-third more than the 9.9 conversations among people 21 and older. They talk 30% more each day about political and cultural topics such as the environment and healthy eating or nutrition.

Gen Z represents a major shift from the teenagers of five years ago, says Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs. The cohort enjoys socializing both online and offline, having more consumer conversations than older consumers, and talking more face-to-face about products and services than older generations. The study identifies changes in the individual brands teenagers talk about every day, indicating that restaurants and local retail are popular.

Among the most talked about brands, Walmart is up 20%, while Coca-Cola and PEPSI are down 21% and 49%, respectively, suggesting Gene Z is moving away from sugary beverage brands.

In addition, the Gen Z cohort is talking more about “neighborhood” convenience and drugstores. 7-Eleven is up by more than 300% among Gen Z in terms of the frequency of conversation, while Aldi’s, Walgreens and CVS are also posing double and triple digit gains. Taken together with the increase in Walmart conversations, the researchers attribute the shift to a preference for “around the corner” retail in place of destination retail.

Compared to 2013, Gen Z is talking about nearly every restaurant more frequently. Conversations about several restaurant chains, such as Baskin Robbin’s, Del Taco, Domino’s and California Pizza Kitchen, have tripled or increased even more. But despite the rising tide for restaurants among Gen Z overall, many quick-service restaurants are seeing modest declines, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. The researchers note fast-casual chains that enable “hanging out” with friends are becoming more popular than the in-and-out convenience of quick-service restaurants. 

Longstanding brands like Breyers ice cream and Post cereals are being talked about much more than five years ago, which might be related to some of these brands’ commitments to environmental sustainability.

For the full story, go to this week’s Food Institute Report.