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2016 Snack Trends: A Look at What Helps Boost Sales in Commercial and Non-Commercial Segments

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Mondelēz International wanted to get to the heart of 2016 snack trends. So it partnered with Penton Media to survey and study what drives snack sales in today’s ever-changing industry.

Over 500 non-commercial and commercial operators shared their opinions and experiences during the February 2016 survey. The results brought interesting revelations to light for consumer purchase drivers, preferences and more.

Read on for exciting insights into consumers’ snacking behavior and what merchandising and promotional tactics help convert to sales.

The A-B-Cs of Gen Z Differentiation

So what are the other key differences between millennials and Gen Z?

Favoring flavor over sustainability: While millennials put great emphasis on sustainability, Gen Z is less concerned about where food comes from than taste and flavors. Like millennials, they favor quick-service establishments, but they underindex millennials and baby boomers when asked about the importance of hot-button topics like locally sourced ingredients, unprocessed food, grass-fed proteins and authentic ingredients.4 < The craveability factor is the driving force in Gen Z food preferences. Cleanliness matters, but not necessarily clean labels. Food taste and flavor (56.6%), utensil cleanliness (55.1%), and food quality (53%) top the menu of musts for Gen Z.4 <

Reigning in millennial excess: As the post-9/11 and Great Recession generation, Gen Z was born into a more risk-conscious world, where safety can’t be taken for granted and economic uncertainty is the norm. As a result, they tend to be more pragmatic and thrifty than millennials and less likely to splurge on food. But that doesn’t mean they’re willing to skimp on quality. Because of the previous generation’s insistence on trustworthy food, Gen Z has come to expect high quality as a given as they ramp up demand for variety. Thanks to growing up with access to a wide range of cuisine, their palates crave diversity and bold, unique flavors, but their practicality compels them not to take big bites of their budgets.

Tech as second nature and first priority: Unlike millennials who remember the emergence of smartphones and the rise of social media, Gen Zers view the digital landscape as a natural part of the world into which they were born. Ordering food on their smartphones and sharing pictures of snacks they find appealing or out of the ordinary is a common occurrence for them. Weaned on tech’s convenience, efficiency and customization, they have the well-honed ability to multitask across multiple devices, including TV, cell phones, laptops, desktop computers and portable music players. As children of all things digital, they favor paying with debit cards, Venmo or Apple Pay over cash.2

Catering to the new kids: Remember the craveability rule: flavor is the way to find favor with Gen Z. Keep in mind that technology has trained them to expect customization in all aspects of their lives, so opportunities to mix and match and build their own snacks and meals will appeal to them. It’s also important to please their pocketbooks as well as their palates. Instead of fancy and high-priced fare, Gen Z gravitates toward tasty options that satisfy their appetite for money-saving offers distributed through digital marketing channels like mobile or social media. And when you think social marketing, think Instagram, Snapchat or Vine.

As they head off to college and enter the workforce, Gen Z will serve up a feast of opportunities to acquire new customers and build brand loyalty. Stay ahead of the curve by keeping on top of their needs and preferences, and you’ll be headed in the right direction to help drive sales to the next level.

1 Fry, Richard, Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation, Pew Research Center, Apr. 25, 2016,
2 Taylor, Marygrace, “Move over millennials: Here’s what you need to know about Gen Z,” Food Management, Aug. 23, 2016,
3 Glazer, Fern, “Move over millennials: Gen Z takes a seat at the table,” Restaurant News, June 29, 2016,
4 Technomic SmartSupport, The Gen Z Selfie custom report, June 2016

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