Fruity/chewy candy and meat snacks/jerky increased significantly in popularity.

CINCINNATI — Generation Z is disrupting many of the assumptions and conventions upon which marketers and retailers base their strategies, according to a new deep dive from neuroscience-based consumer insights market research firm Alpha-Diver.

The new report, entitled “Introducing The Snack 50 Psych Pulse Gen Z Edition: Surprising WHYs Behind Gen Z’s Snack Decisions,” delivers insights regarding the cohort’s snacking preferences. It is a follow-up to Alpha-Diver’s first-ever “Snack 50 Psych Pulse” report, released earlier this year, which measures psychological drivers of consumer decision-making when it comes to snacking.

The report analyses four emotional jobs — Functional, Experience, Conformity and Impulse — that different snacks do for consumers and shows the top two snacks for each “job.” The analysis studied 12 categories of snacks overall, with an emphasis on packaged snack and sweets brands.

Source: Alpha-Diver

The deep dive examines differences in preferences for snack “jobs” among Gen Z vs. the overall population, revealing how the cohort differs and what it means for brands.

The findings point to three macro differences for Gen Z when it comes to what categories and brands they decide to buy:

1. Choosing Chewy

Two categories increased most significant in popularity among younger consumers: fruity/chewy candy and meat snacks/jerky. Corresponding brands within these categories jumped similarly in their emotional importance to this generation.

Source: Alpha-Diver

Behavioral science offers an interesting insight regarding these improvements: these are the chewiest snacks included in the study, according to Alpha-Diver. “It’s been widely reported that young consumers are experiencing potent levels of stress and anxiety. The field of psychology has found that the physical act of chewing contributes to stress reduction. So, it’s likely no coincidence that ‘the chews’ are appealing to Gen Z,” said Alpha-Diver President Hunter Thurman and Director of Data Insights Mary Mathes, authors of the report.

2. Better-for-you May Not Be Better For Business

Snack categories like nuts reside in the “functional” space, meaning they make rational, practical sense. Typically, this is the domain of better-for-you, sensible options. Snack bars and pretzels also serve this emotional job.

Source: Alpha-Diver

[Read more: In the Driver’s Seat]

“With many headlines awash in the supposed importance of health and wellness for Gen Z, it’s surprising that snack nuts plummet in popularity among this cohort, dropping to No. 11 out of 12 (and the No. 12 spot belongs to pretzels),” Thurman and Mathes wrote. “Why don’t sensible snacks create the emotional voltage of their fun-forward (and generally less ‘healthy’) alternatives? Because snacking decisions for Gen Z are primarily about feeling better emotionally. Snacks’ role is to provide mental escape via an interesting experience, or just some feel-good satisfaction (and stress relief) that comes with salt, fat, and carbs/sugar.”

Alpha-Diver suggests marketers adapt their offerings to address not only BFY functionality, but also “better-to-you” emotional experiences.

3. Name Brands Matter

With ongoing economic uncertainty, most marketers are concerned about shoppers trading down to store brands and private label. However, the broader Snack 50 findings reveal that shoppers choose store brands not merely for prices, but because of social norms: shoppers perceive that other people like them.

Source: Alpha-Diver

For Gen Z, however, the importance of social conformity drops considerably when it comes to snacking. Individual experiences drive decision-making much more. As a result, the rankings of store brands in the list drop across the board.

“So, while the snacking decisions of Gen Z are often surprising, and counter to conventional assumptions, they are explainable. Experiences matter. Brands matter. And marketers have options beyond the price promotion race-to-the-bottom,” wrote Thurman and Mathes. “Brands that heed these explanations, serving the core emotional needs of these consumers, will enjoy strong potential.”

“Introducing The Snack 50 Psych Pulse Gen Z Edition: Surprising WHYs Behind Gen Z’s Snack Decisions” is available for download here.

Alpha-Diver is a market research firm that applies neuroscience to understand marketplace behavior more deeply. The firm’s neuroscientists and strategists work with leading brands, retailers and the Wall Street analyst community to explain, measure and predict consumer behavior. Clients include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Kellanova, among others.

Source: Convenience Store News