Gen Z and Millennial consumers are a tremendously influential segment of the dessert buying market with spending power that will only accelerate in the next five years.
Understanding these generations of consumers is critical to the continued success of the restaurant industry as this huge new generation forms not only their brand loyalty, but also the habits and decision cycles they will use as consumers going forward.
This national study was led to bring the missing research-based insights, data, and truth to the perception of branded dessert items and Hershey products specifically among Gen Z and Millennial consumers.
The Hershey Company and The Center for Generational Kinetics are pleased to partner on this insightful national research designed to uncover the perceptions, influences, and loyalty of branded dessert products among young consumers as well as understanding and optimizing the messaging techniques for promoting these branded product offerings.~The Hershey Company and The Center for Generational Kinetics
When it comes to desserts, Gen Z (18-21) and Millennials (22-39) are vocal advocates. They have a unique relationship with sweets that touches multiple areas of their lives. It is clear that dessert preferences and trends among these younger consumers are not only powerful but influential in terms of their thoughts and behaviors.
The national study found that 87% of Gen Z and Millennials think about eating dessert one or more times per day! Additionally, 76% of Gen Z and Millennials think dessert is essential to special occasions and 48% have a family tradition involving a specific dessert. Clearly, desserts have a stalwart position in the lives and experiences of these younger generations.
According to the national study, this infatuation with desserts becomes more apparent the younger the generation, sometimes even taking the place of traditional meals. Half of all Gen Z has ordered a dessert instead of an entrée at a restaurant. Gen Z seems to heavily incorporate desserts into their social lives and even their relationships.
It's plainly evident that desserts have a special value in the lives of Gen Z and Millennials with a power that impacts even their personal relationships and behaviors.
Millennials and Gen Z have a strong connection with desserts that places these foods very top of mind and establishes them as essential to social and special occasions. Gen Z is particularly influenced by desserts and has integrated them into multiple social interactions and relationship scenarios.
When asked how likely they would be to try a variety of branded food categories, Gen Z and Millennials listed branded desserts as their top preference. The national study uncovered that 68% of Gen Z and 64% of Millennials would be likely to try a branded dessert for the first time. For both generational groups this was the highest rated category of branded item. Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to try every type of branded category, particularly branded beverages.
Interestingly, the likelihood of trying a branded dessert item is the highest ranked category not only for both generations but also both genders. The national study found that 61% of men and an astonishing 71% of women said they are likely to try a branded dessert for the first time. Each of these represented the highest-ranking category in the group.
When it comes to younger generations' willingness to try a new type of branded food category, branded desserts take the cake. The majority of both Gen Z and Millennials are willing to try a branded dessert for the first time. Branded desserts are also the top category to try for the first time with both men and women.
Capturing a photo of a delicious, alluring meal on your phone has now become commonplace in our society. Nowhere is this phenomenon more pervasive than with young consumers.
According to the national study, when asked which food course (appetizers, entrée, sides, desserts, drinks, etc.) they photograph the most, 42% of Gen Z said dessert representing the top choice. Additionally, 46% of Gen Z have a picture of a dessert in their phones right now. Dessert is clearly the most popular photographed food course for Gen Z. Dessert is the most often photographed food course for Gen Z.
Not only did the national study discover that desserts are the most photographed food course by Gen Z consumers, it also revealed that Hershey branded desserts are particularly influential when it comes to social media sharing.
The national study discovered that 39% of Gen Z are more likely to post a picture of their dessert on social media when it has Hershey ingredients. In addition, young consumers have a host of other activities they are likely to do if they enjoy a dessert in a restaurant that has Hershey ingredients.
Almost half of Gen Z say they would recommend the dessert to someone else in person, and 31% of Gen Z say they would post a comment about the Hershey dessert on social media.
Not only is Gen Z more likely to take a picture of dessert over any other meal throughout their day, they are also more likely to post it on social media when it is a Hershey branded dessert item. More than any other age group, Gen Z is likely to post about their experience after enjoying a Hershey dessert on social media.
Hershey branded dessert items have staying power with young consumers. Not only are Gen Z and Millennials more likely to return to a restaurant after enjoying a Hershey branded dessert item, they will also pay more for a dessert item that is Hershey branded.
Gen Z and Millennials have a unique and heightened connection with desserts that covers multiple areas of their daily lives. These generations are interested in trying branded desserts over other food categories and they are more likely to take pictures of desserts and share them on social media. These generations are also loyal to Hershey branded products as they are more likely to return to a restaurant and pay more for a product with Hershey ingredients.
The national study revealed several key findings that can be implemented immediately and have the lasting effects on Gen Z and Millennial appeal, loyalty, and business. Food retailers and restaurants have a vast opportunity to win Gen Z and Millennials as loyal customers. Here are suggestions from the study for success with these younger consumers.
1. APPROACH GEN Z WITH A 'DESSERT FIRST' MENTALITY-Gen Z consumers have an especially strong connection to dessert and will choose a restaurant just to enjoy a favorite dessert. Desserts are not an afterthought for this generation and should be frontloaded on the menu, by the server, and in messaging. Highlight dessert menus to be noticeable and easy to locate.
2. FOCUS ON SOCIAL MEDIA to engage with younger consumers where they are already-These consumers post a great deal of their restaurant purchases and are particularly fond of posting dessert photos. Run social media contests, giveaways, and special offers to increase tagged dessert posts to continuously connect with Gen Z and Millennial consumers.
3. USE HERSHEY BRAND TRUST TO DRIVE RETURN VISITS-Younger consumers identify with Hershey and trust that these branded ingredients deliver on quality and taste. Use this brand power to draw the attention of Gen Z consumers. Create new experiences by offering Hershey specials or highlighting seasonal Hershey desserts to keep them coming back again and again.
The Center for Generational Kinetics is the leading research, speaking, and solutions firm focused on Millennials, Gen Z, and solving cross-generation challenges. The Center's team of PhD researchers, strategists, and speakers help leaders around the world solve tough generational challenges in areas ranging from leading across multiple generation in a global company to selling and marketing to Millennials and Gen Z.
Each year, The Center works with over 180 clients around the world, from car manufacturers and global hoteliers to insurance companies, hospital groups, and international software firms. The Center's team is frequently quoted in the media about the effect of generational differences on everything from shopping and parenting to work style and social media.
Learn more about The Center at GenHQ.com.
The Hershey Company and The Center for Generational Kinetics jointly led this research study. The survey was administered to 1,250 U.S. respondents ages 18-39 including a 250-person oversample of Generation Z ages 18-21.
Generation Z is defined as those born in 1996 or more recently, Millennials are defined as those born between 1977 and 1995. The sample was weighted to the current U.S. Census data for age, gender, and region.
The survey was conducted online from October 24, 2017 to November 1, 2017 and has a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points.
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