Gen Z Healthy Eating: What We Know & How to Attract Them

Looking to get in on Gen Z healthy eating? This article digs into what we know and how health brands can get Gen Z buying.
Fanbytes | Gen Z Healthy Eating - what we know and how to attract them.

In 30 seconds:

  • What is the current outlook on Gen Z healthy eating, and why should your brand care? We’ve got the low-down.
  • Zoomers care about wellness, not dieting. Fad diets are out, and mental health is in.
  • What practical tips can food brands use for marketing their product to this generation? We’re giving you the secrets.

For Gen Z, healthy eating is a key concern. 72% of Gen Z respondents see healthy eating as an integral part of their physical and mental health, with 71% making an effort to eat healthy food at home.

Their title as the “digital generation” certainly rings true when it comes to their health and the food choices they make. Gen Z grew up with the internet in full swing, and this constant digital presence impacts their taste buds no other generation before them. Gen Z will always have one eye on their screens when scanning the shelves for what to buy – and this includes food products

With a digital world at their fingertips, Gen Z has an endless stream of information on health, diet and food trends always available to them. They’re easily introduced to new foods and clever cooking tips that older generations before them couldn’t easily access. In short, Gen Zers are surrounded by tons of health hacks, nutritional tips and scientific food facts. Simply being ‘healthy’ isn’t going to help food brands stand out. So, what can healthy food brands do to encourage Gen Z to zoom their carts to their section?

This article will help you harness Gen Z’s ‘hybrid identities’ and hunger for healthier food knowledge to drive interest and sales. But to understand the opportunity, we first need to identify what’s going through Gen Z’s healthy heads. So let’s dig in. 

Is Gen Z healthy?

Their heads are in the right place. But Gen Z’s young age is a significant factor in the foods they eat, their behaviour, and their budget. 

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to cooking and preparing food, 10-24 year-olds are the least likely age group to cook for themselves. After spending a significant portion of their adolescence in lockdown, Gen Z is the most likely demographic to report getting food outside of their homes. However, as teens and young adults, they usually grab something stress-free and easy on their wallets, especially in social settings. 

The UK governments health survey found that Gen Zers are not eating five portions of fruit and vegetables daily and are eating less of these healthy foods than older age groups. Instead, they’re eating more pre-packaged sandwiches and ready meals than Millennials.

The typical go-to for young people is fast food. More than 1/3 of Gen Zs report that they’ll indulge in quick service restaurants, such as McDonald’s or Starbucks, at least once a week. These establishments are also relatively cheap, and 67% of Gen Z seriously consider the price of their food before they pay. 

But is Gen Z interested in healthy food? Definitely! Young people care about eating well. They may be typical teens in some senses (grabbing a big mac or nuggets on the go), but they are also forward thinkers, putting health and wellness at the front of many decisions.

Wellness > dieting

Whilst Gen X and Millennials often placed diet efforts on slimming down – Kate Moss’ “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” ringing in their ears – Gen Z sees food and health in a whole new light. 

Gen Z is the only generation to put mental health in the top three benefits gained from foods and drinks. So eating healthily is not just about the physical side for them: it’s just one element of a holistic approach to “feeling well”. 

68% of Gen Z say that a well-balanced diet is critical. ‘Well-balanced’ is the key term here. Gen Z is not into fad diets or highly restrictive eating plans. Instead, this health-conscious generation wants healthy eating to fit into their lifestyle. Their food preferences veer towards long-term health choices that they can realistically attain – and keep. 

So, farewell to slimming shakes and skinny bars: when it comes to choosing what they eat at home, Gen Z is more inclined to pick products that market their health benefits rather than slimming ones. Their goal is to feel good about themselves – and for Gen Z, this goes further than fitting into smaller size jeans.

The male and female divide

Past generations may have factored a belief in “a manly plate,” but for Gen Z, eating “like a man” is becoming less important. There is still “some consideration” of some diets as more feminine, but this is fast fading out. 

Gen Z males are the most likely to eat burgers every week. But this doesn’t make them an unhealthy bunch. They’re more likely to eat meat in general, but this may be because of their desire for protein-rich nourishment. Over 60% of Gen Z males are “into” a high-protein diet, whilst only 35% of women say the same.

That said, 79% of Gen Z want to reduce meat consumption altogether. They’ve grown up with “Veganuary” and the developing rhetoric around plant-based diets in shops and fast food restaurants. For Gen Z, eating less meat, choosing plant-based meat, or cutting it out altogether is more accessible than ever, and that also goes for male Gen Zers.

The gender differences in healthy eating for Gen Z are no longer so clean-cut – partly because this generation is more likely than any other to identify as not rigidly masculine or feminine themselves. So the lines are being blurred, and healthy lifestyles are on the table for everyone.

What influences Gen Z’s health food decisions?

So we now know what Gen Z thinks about healthy eating, but what else influences their new food behaviours? 

1. Social media

Social media has a significant impact on Gen Z’s food choices and behaviours. 

Gen Z has a higher overall interest in food versus older generations, and a higher willingness to try new foods. They have a truly international outlook on food and enjoy trying foods from different countries and cuisines. We have social media to directly thank for this.

Seeing the wide variety of foods and ideas online naturally makes Gen Z more interested to try them. With food bloggers and their favourite influencers regularly filming new healthy ingredients, cuisines and recipes, Zoomers are regularly inspired to try out foods for themselves. In fact, Over half of Gen Z say they rely on social media for advice when making healthy food choices

And if not for their own health, keeping up with trends is another motivation for a health kick. 67% admitted healthy food is pretty trendy at the minute, and they want to stay up-to-date

Healthy food content regularly garners millions of views on social media – especially on Tiktok. “What I eat in a day” videos can skyrocket to become viral sensations – and healthy TikTok content tailored to a specific niche or conversation often performs particularly well. This can be explained by TikTok’s relatability: with 83% of TikTokers creating content themselves, the gap between influencers and casual TikTok users is closing. Food content from Tiktokers whose experiences closely resemble their own is convincing Gen Zers to shop for what they see.

2. The environment

Gen Zers are ethically driven. They look to align their lifestyles and brands they buy from with their morals. It’s not just their own wellness that they care about: it’s the planet’s too. In fact, 73% of them believe their generation is more concerned about the environmental impact of food choices than older generations

Gen Z is consuming 550% more dairy-free milk beverages than prior generations – and many do so not solely for dietary requirements. 38% of Gen Z are vegetarian or vegan for environmental concerns and 55% for animal welfare

Gen Z is also more likely to purchase products labelled as “small carbon footprint” or “carbon neutral” than Baby Boomers, and they’ll ditch the big food brands if there’s an option for more sustainable products and packaging. 75% of Gen Z’s think sustainable purchases are more important than brand names.

Whether its the reduced carbon footprint of plant-based foods or the ecological benefits of natural food, Gen Z is hungry for information. They don’t just want to learn about how what they eat benefits their bodies – they also want to know more about how their eating habits affect the world around them. 

3. Mental health and dieting

Young people recognise the unhealthy pressure to follow “fitness hype”, and to combat this, many Gen Zers try to define their own concept of health. We see this in the kind of content they create on social media, and even young people’s activism

In 2021, the UK parliament approved the legal requirement for large businesses with more than 250 employees to display calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks. Most Gen Zers disagreed with this. 55% were concerned about the repercussions. They took to social media to point out the problematic side of this decision and the detriment calorie counting could cause for people who struggle with eating disorders

Gen Z cares about how social pressures can affect their mental health. That’s why it’s so important for brands to meet them on their level. For a deep dive on Gen Zers’ changing relationship with health and body image, check out our article, Gen Z and Body Positivity: What Should Brands Know?

How can you attract Gen Z to your health food brand?

Now you’ve got your bearings on the landscape of Gen Z healthy eating, it’s time to get your food brand in front of them. Here’s some key advice to keep in your food marketing toolkit. 

1. Be transparent

For Gen Z, the truth matters. More than any older generation, Gen Z says a lack of transparency reduces their opinion of brands and products. So make things clear. Gen Z wants to know what they’re putting in their bodies, where it comes from and how it’s made at the get-go. 

Provide simple nutritional information both on your product itself and online. Packaging must be particularly clear for those ‘in the moment’ shoppers. In a supermarket, your potential customer isn’t going to have time to read as much, so your information must be easy to understand and completely relevant

Zoomers are also known to do their research before buying, however – so use your website to provide more detailed nutritional and manufacturing information.

When it comes to this information, don’t just want to say what’s in the product. Explain why it’s healthy, the benefits they’ll gain, and put it into context against other options on the market. And stick to the facts: this generation is well geared to see through any bold claims. 

2. Focus holistically on ethics and wellness

Ethics are essential for winning Gen Z’s custom. They want to know whether they align with your brand’s values before buying. Make sure your sustainability promises, ethical values and methods take centre stage. 

These values extend to wellness. As we’ve seen, slimming is out, and holistic health conversations are in. Talk about your brand’s focus on mental and physical well-being to get the interest of Zoomers. 

This generation has grown up through some turbulent times: a pandemic followed by a cost of living crisis in the last two years alone – and many were children in the 2008 financial crash. This has undoubtedly affected Gen Z’s well-being. 60% believe that the pandemic’s single most significant effect on society will be taking care of one’s health – and financial worries have recently overtaken climate change at the top of Gen Z’s concerns. If you can illustrate your brand’s relevance to Gen Zers’ experiences, they’ll become loyal customers.

Make sure your marketing strategy is inclusive, and understanding of the pressures this generation is under. Provide practical advice and helpful information. Don’t just focus on selling; they’ll see through this. Giving this generation value will have them falling in love with your product and coming back for more.

3. Stay social

If you want Gen Z to notice you, get into their spaces. If you’re part of their daily life on a social media platform they love, word will spread fast. TikTok is a great option for this as over 60% of TikTok users are Generation Z, and the way they’re using it is incredibly exciting for brands: it’s not just a social network where they catch up with friends – it’s also a discovery platform where Gen Z go to find out more about their interests and be entertained.

In fact, TikTok is becoming Gen Z’s favourite search engine. For young people, TikTok is the new Google.

97% of Gen Z consumers use social media as the main source of their shopping inspiration, and  86% of TikTok users say the app inspires them to try things in real life. The proof is in the hashtag views. #fitnessjourney has a whopping 2.1 billion global views, and #mentalhealthawareness has over 12.2 billion. Making your brand visible on TikTok means Gen Zers are more likely to try your products in real life. So make TikTok a source of truth for your brand’s key messages. 

Entertainment is the biggest category on TikTok, and our own research indicates Gen Zers go on TikTokto be entertained”. So make sure your TikTok videos are fun. Speak out about health facts and nutritional facts through short, exciting videos to make technical info more digestible. But don’t be tempted to dumb food industry facts down: many TikTokers use the app to learn, so if something takes explaining, seize the opportunity to make it interesting.

Tap into this and you’re well on your way to getting your social media strategy booming. This brings us to our next point…

4. Bring in the influencers

Backup your facts with voices Gen Zers trust. Zoomers listen to influencers, with 76% of Gen Z-ers following at least one influencer on social media. Creators on these platforms have spent time and energy developing a close community of fans and know exactly how to speak directly to them. 

This is a vital way to reach Gen Z, because this group is the most sceptical generation yet. Just 42% of them said that they trust companies – the lowest of any age group. Collaborating with social media influencers, however, helps bring attention to your brand in a way that Gen Zers actively choose to listen to. After all, there’s a reason they tap the ‘follow’ button on a given influencer.

Partnering with the right influencers will boost your brand awareness and is a great avenue to explain what’s  healthy about your product. As we’ve seen above, the relatability of social media content can be incredibly valuable: it allows younger generations to see how easily your products can be incorporated into their daily lives.

Of course, just choosing any old influencer won’t do. A creator has to align with your company’s core values, be genuinely interested in your product and happy to promote it. How do you find these people? We have a whole article on that, so check out How to Find TikTok Influencers: 5 Insider Tips to get up to speed, or get in touch with us to learn more. 

5. Create a community

You want your target audience to feel included. As soon as food brands start spouting hard diet talk, Gen Zers run a mile, because they feel alienated. Aligning with their healthy lifestyle ideas is where you want to be – because this makes them feel connected, both in the sense that their food choices are connected to how they feel, but also because it helps them feel more connected in the world.

Gen Z is the loneliest generation. They crave community and look for opportunities to bond wherever they are. This helps to explain their altruism, but is also a helpful insight for food brands: if you can demonstrate the human side of your healthy snacks, you’ll win a highly engaged audience.

Ask your young customers questions and get to know them. Then use social media to address the topics that come up – and invite more perspectives. Take every opportunity to make young people feel included and connected to you, then take on board their suggestions and show them how their opinions have made a difference.

As for your campaigns, an important consideration is the high proportion of TikTok users create their own video content now. Gen Z aren’t just viewers: they’re armed with the ability to create a response. They see themselves on equal footing to brands. Use this to join up all your activities and provide opportunities for young people to get creative. 

This all means having an open conversation with them. We’ve talked about transparency with your facts, but be transparent as a brand too. Don’t sugarcoat the truth, and be authentic in all your messaging. Gen Z will reward you for it. 

Get your strategy in shape

The young adults of today are redefining what healthy eating means and they’re eager for new products and genuine brands that cut the trimmings and keep stuff real. 

Gen Z is growing up eager to stay healthy and consume the right products – for themselves and for the world. And they listen to trusted people and brands they can identify with. Now you have some more tools in your marketing kitchen, you can get engaging with Gen Z.

Need a little more help? Get in touch to find out how we can make your marketing strategy a picture of health and get Zoomers on board with your brand. 

On a research roll? Take a bite out of these posts below for some more solid insights on the Gen Z mentality and opportunities for retailers and food brands on social media.

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