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Move Over Millennials, Here Comes Gen Z

Perhaps the most over-used word in today’s lexicon is “millennials.” As the key demographic that commands the greatest influencing and buying power (a position this group assumed in 2017), the term “millennials” is not fading away anytime soon. But now, a new group is emerging—Generation Z—and their influence and spending power is growing.

There’s conjecture surrounding the age range for “Gen Z” or “Next Gen.” Some market research firms label this group as 13 to 18 year olds, while others say Gen Z are “those individuals born between 1996 and 2010.” There are similarities with millennials, but Gen Z has considerable differences in experiences, attitudes and opinions. While I cannot list all their characteristics, there are some significant distinctions among Gen Z worth noting. Whereas millennials grew up in a period of relative peace and prosperity, Gen Z has been maturing in a post 9/11 world. Gen Z is one of the most culturally diverse demographics, therefore they embrace multiculturalism. They have also never lived in a world without smartphones and social media, so the Internet and social media is ingrained in their nature. However, Gen Z reportedly tends to be less “showy” and more private than their millennial counterparts on social media. And, Gen Z has different tastes and preferences when it comes to their beverage choices as well.

As such, for the first time, the National Coffee Association (NCA) included Generation Z (13-18 year olds) in their annual NCDT Study. The 2017 NCDT Study found that coffee is not the most consumed beverage among Gen Z. Beverages with higher consumption rates than coffee among these younger consumers are unflavored water, tap water, milk and soft drinks. Yet, among those who do drink coffee, 70% of past-day coffee consumed was gourmet versus 30% non-gourmet. Other findings in the NCDT Study specifically related to Gen Z include:

  • 20% of past-day coffee drinkers consumed a ready-to-drink coffee (in a bottle or can).
  • 64% both whitened and sweetened their coffee (the highest segment to use both additives).
  • In the past week, 39% of Gen Z women drank an espresso-based beverage compared to 29% of Gen Z men.
  • In the past day, 35% of Gen Z women used a flavored creamer in their coffee, and 19% used a flavor or flavored syrup in their coffee. Gen Z men are significantly less likely to use flavored creamers or syrups.

The NCDT Study also revealed that 13-18 year-old coffee drinkers who perceive themselves drinking more coffee in foodservice establishments such as restaurants and cafés are more likely than those aged 19-34 to cite taste, convenience and “give myself a treat” as major reason for doing so. Additionally, this age group is also the least likely to say that drinking coffee is “a ritual in their day,” further evidencing that younger consumers are more apt to view coffee as a “treat” compared with those in the older demographics who have already established a coffee ritual.

Although coffee consumption among Generation Z is currently limited (they do not seem to be drinking much tea either), it’s growing, as they mature and have more personal freedom and disposable income, their habits will likely change (and hopefully this will include increasing their coffee and/or tea consumption). Coffee and tea companies would be wise learn Gen Z’s beverage likes, dislikes, preferences and attitudes, and start targeting them now.

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