Gen Z likes snacking on Goldfish crackers; shopping on Amazon; and spending time on Tiktok.
That’s according to the results of a new survey of the generation conducted by Piper Sandler Companies, a leading investment bank.
It's Piper Sandler's 43rd semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey, which is done in partnership with DECA. This survey highlights discretionary spending trends and brand preferences of 7,100 teens across 44 U.S. states with an average age of 16.2 years. This year’s spring 2022 survey was conducted from Feb. 16 to March 22.
Most notable for the candy industry, food regained the top wallet share for upper-income teens after losing the top spot last fall. It now accounts for 22 percent of their spending share, up from 21 percent in fall 2021 but down from 23 percent last year.
The spring survey also showed an acceleration in overall teen spending, up 9 percent year over year.
And yes, many have their own money to spend now. The survey showed that 39 percent of teens hold a part-time job – up from 38 percent last fall and 33 percent in spring 2021.
So what food are they buying exactly? Their favorite snacks include:
1. Goldfish, 11 percent
2. Lays, 10 percent
3. Cheez-It, 9 percent
4. Doritos, 6 percent
5. Cheetos, 4 percent.
Also of note, teens’ interest in plant-based meat is slipping; 43 percent consume or are willing to try it, down from 49 percent in spring 2021. While that statistic may not be specifically related to the candy industry, it could have implications for vegan trends.
Meanwhile their favorite restaurants are:
1. Chick-fil-A, 18 percent
2. Chipotle, 14 percent
3. Starbucks, 13 percent
4. McDonald's, 4 percent
5. Dunkin', 3 percent.
That’s a good list to keep in mind for candy brands looking to partner with fast food chains that reach Gen Z.
When it comes to shopping, their top online shopping website was still Amazon with 53 percent. While the site sells a massive variety of product, candy is among them, and there’s still lots of room for growth there for the confectionery industry.
Brands that want to reach them need to be on social media, and specifically Tiktok.
The survey showed that teens continue to spend roughly four hours a day on social media. And TikTok surpassed Snapchat as their favorite social media platform for the first time.
Their top favorite celebrities are Ryan Reynolds and Zendaya, while their favorite influencers are Emma Chamberlain and Kanye West.
They’re also following international news as well as the economy.
Gen Z cited Russian invasion of Ukraine as their top concern, pushing the environment to No. 2. Gas prices showed up as the No. 4 concern, and when combined with inflation, would have ranked No. 1, the research firm said.
There's little doubt that Gen Z as a generation will be shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could be years before there's enough time to truly understand the impact.
For now, they seem to be growing up similar to how millennials did. They're shopping online; they're eating Goldfish crackers; and they're spending time on social media, where they connect with friends, brands and the latest international news.
Millennials were the first generation raised almost entirely with access to the internet and it had a massive impact on their consumer behavior. Now, Gen Z is the second and brands have a broad roadmap to look to as they attempt to reach this generation.
Of course, it also means Gen Z is more informed and more skeptical of what brands are telling them than past generations. So reaching them will require authenticity, patience and the ability to adapt to their near-immediate feedback. Seeing the feedback as a good thing — as a chance to adjust to their needs — rather than as an annoyance will likely be the most productive thing companies can do.