Gen Z young adults have been caught up in the change in America's food culture that has moved consumers away from three sit-down meals at fixed times and in the direction of multiple eating experiences that occur throughout the day. As a result, today's 18- to 24-year-olds are more likely than their Millennial predecessors to say they often snack between meals (74% vs 66%). When they do slowdown to prepare a meal, Gen Z young adults are much more likely to prefer simple, easy-to-prepare meals (58% vs 40%).

The findings were published in Looking Ahead to Gen Z: Demographic Patterns and Spending Trends, a report from Packaged Facts, a leading market research company.  

Data published in the report further reveal that households headed by adults under age 25 are 29% more likely to eat shelf-to-microwave dinners and 26% more likely to eat frozen breakfast entrees/sandwiches. They also have a 23% higher likelihood of eating frozen (complete) TV dinners and are 10% more likely to eat dry packaged dinners, dinner mixes, and kits. 

"Seemingly perpetually in motion, ubiquitously surrounded by limitless smartphone entertainment options, and frequently willing to work multiple jobs or side gigs, many Gen Z young adults are attracted to easy-to-prepare meals as well as snacking," says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "Therefore, there's exists ample opportunity for food marketers of frozen prepared meals, canned soups, potato chips, and other canned and packaged prepared food such as salads and desserts, to convert adults under the age of 25 into loyal lifelong customers."

The major caveat for food industry players is that despite their heavy reliance on portable and convenient food options, Gen Z adults are surprisingly health conscious. Products must keep pace with the cohort's nutritional preferences and demands. Compared to their Millennial counterparts a decade ago, 18- to 24-year-olds today are more likely to look for organic or natural foods when they go food shopping and to prefer foods without artificial additives. They also are more likely to be vegetarians.

In addition, Gen Z with their adventurous palates are more likely to expect food companies to deliver new, novel, and authentic food experiences. Once again, when compared to 18- to 24-year-old Millennials a decade ago, Gen Z young adults are more likely to say they are usually the first among their friends to try new food products or to admit that they can often be swayed by coupons to try new food products. They also are more interested in trying out new recipes.

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