Survey: Tracking Gen Z Food Preferences

Food was the No. 1 wallet priority for male spending at 23% share, according to Piper Sandler’s Fall Taking Stock with Teens survey, while clothing (30%) outranked food (21%) to capture the highest level of female wallet share since 2012.

The survey highlights discretionary spending trends and brand preferences from 14,500 teens with an average age of 15.8 years.

Overall, teen spending was up 3% year over year. Here are some key stats on what Gen Z is eating these days—and where.

Snacking & Food Trends

Goldfish remained teens’ most preferred snack brand, followed by Lays and Cheez-It. Their intention to increase the consumption of Nature Valley and Clif products was also noteworthy.

When it comes to healthy snacking, over half of teens (52%) said they “somewhat” or “very much” prefer healthy snacks, and 55% said they eat organic food at home and are eating more organic food than they did a year ago.

Top snack brands by mention:

  1. PepsiCo (25%)
  2. Kellogg / Campbells Soup (14%)
  3. Mondelez (7%)
  4. Grupo Bimbo / General Mills (4%)

In the alt protein space, 14% of respondents claimed they eat plant-based meat, while an additional 29% said they’re willing to try it.

However, 23% of those who eat plant-based meat indicated that they plan to eat less of these products in the year ahead—a figure that has increased 6% year over year.

Restaurant Activity

Teens continue to overwhelmingly prefer limited-service restaurant brands—including fast casual and fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, cafes, and pizzerias—over full-service establishments.

Top 5 restaurant brands by mention:

  1. Chick-fil-A (15%)
  2. Starbucks (13%)
  3. Chipotle (7%)
  4. McDonalds (6%)
  5. Olive Garden (3%)

Overall, restaurant spending has grown to account for an increasing portion of the broader teen wallet over time and ranks second to clothing spend in the current cycle.

“Despite a flattening out during COVID, we believe teens’ preferences for restaurant and dining out occasions is positioned to rebound as behavioral spending patterns normalize,” notes the report.

Shopping Behaviors

Amazon’s dominance continues as 52% of teens say the online retailer is their favorite website in which to  shop. However, online share dropped to 20% (vs. 21% in Spring 2022), which could be tied to robust demand for in-person shopping.

Other noteworthy digital trends:

  • Netflix remained the top platform for videos (32%), edging out YouTube (29%) by a slightly larger margin.
  • TikTok (38%) widened the lead versus Snapchat (30%) as the favorite app for teens. Instagram followed in 3rd but continues to lead the pack in monthly usage.

When it comes to customer service channels, most teens (50%) prefer to pick up the phone and call a customer service agent, while lesser numbers opt for Text /SMS (18%) and Live Chat with a Human (11%).