Gen Z Teens Reducing Spend, Supporting Smaller Brands

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Gen Z teens are spending less and targeting smaller, innovative brands, according to Piper Sandler’s Taking Stock with Teens Spring 2024 survey.

The semi-annual report highlights discretionary spending trends and brand preferences from over 6,000 teens with an average age of 16.1 years.

It covers 47 states nationwide, but regionality is an influential factor. Most respondents hail from the South (43%), followed by the Midwest (28%), West (19%) and Northeast (9%).

Overall, 38% of teens surveyed are currently employed part time, and their “self-reported” spending is down 6% year over year.

Here are some key stats behind what, where, and how Gen Z is consuming.

Restaurants, Snacks, and Other Food Preferences

Teens can’t get enough Chick-fil-A. At 16% share, the fast-food customer service pacesetter remains the No. 1 favorite restaurant, followed by McDonald’s (10%) and Chipotle (9%). Texas Roadhouse (4%) rounded out the top five alongside Raising Cane’s (4%), which has rapidly gained share since the fall ’23 survey when it first placed among the top five.

When it comes to coffee, tea, and beverage places, Starbucks holds the overwhelming majority of share at 37%. Among CPG energy drink brands, Celsius over-indexes with teens, with 17% citing it as their favorite energy drink brand (vs. ~12% market share) while Monster and Red Bull under-index.

Among snack brands, Campbell’s Goldfish are still most preferred. Teens report highest intentions to eat more or the same amount of Mondelez’s Clif Bar and Hershey’s products.

Teen’s Top 5 Snack Brands  

  1. Goldfish (12%)
  2. Lays (11%)
  3. Cheez-It (10%)
  4. Doritos (8%)
  5. Cheetos (6%)

Only 32% of respondents say they consume or are willing to try plant-based meat, compared to 49% in spring ’21, marking an all-time low among the Piper Sandler survey set. Meanwhile, Environment (14%) takes priority among social causes, followed by Inflation (9%) and Racial Equality (6%).  

Shopping and Media Consumption 

Amazon is the most favored e-commerce website according to 55% of respondents, followed by SHEIN (12%) which is up 5% compared to Spring ’21.

In terms of daily video consumption, Netflix returns as the leader for teens with 29% share, followed by YouTube (27%) and Hulu (8%).

Furthermore, 33% of teens now own a VR device. Weekly usage of VR devices rose to 13% from 10% in fall ’23.

On Social, TikTok is the favorite platform among 35% of young Gen Z-ers, but Instagram made a strong improvement this spring (30%), taking the number two spot from Snapchat (22%).

Teen’s Top 5 Influencers

  1. Beast
  2. Alix Earle
  3. Kanye West
  4. Drake
  5. Kai Cenat

“We are seeing some significant shifts in brand preferences including the rise of smaller, innovative brands which are taking share from incumbents,” said Abbie Zvejnieks, senior research analyst at Piper Sandler in a press release. “We think social media has led to an accelerated trend cycle including an increased emphasis on key products, and brands will have to be nimble to keep up.”

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