NEW YORK — At the 2024 Summer Fancy Food Show June 23, Andrea Hernandez, founder of ‘product oracle’ Snaxshot, presented a session on Gen Z trends and how their shopping behavior differs from Millennials.

According to Hernandez, Millennial consumers overcorrected to clean label, organic, better-for-you products after growing up with highly processed snacks as kids in the 1990s.

Millennials also started a trend of using pantry and refrigerator items as social signalers, in the same way they might wear a designer label on their clothing.

Hernandez said Millennials “like to signal with everything, down to what we cook with,” and the most popular home remodeling trend for Millennials is open cabinet shelves to display their pantry items. On social media, Millennials post photos and videos of the inside of their refrigerators and pantries, and “restocking” videos are especially popular on TikTok and Instagram Reels.

Hernandez called this the “pretty pantry paradigm.”

Millennials have even begun doing what Hernandez referred to as “Trojan horsing” with packaging, which is buying an expensive product once, saving the packaging, and refilling it with a cheaper, similar product. Hernandez mentioned this could create some food safety issues if the packaging is not meant to be reused for extended periods of time, but Millennials are typically more concerned with appearance of luxury than the practicality.

Hernandez believes brands have been “overdoing it” when leaning into these Millennial trends and made a joke about sundried tomatoes that were labeled as “vegan jerky” and even luxury water brands adding the word “vegan” to their labels to appeal to Millennials who prioritize better-for-you items.

Gen Z runs in the opposite direction

Hernandez said Gen Z is rebelling against the over-the-top better-for-you marketing, and they pride themselves on questioning the validity of the claims and being informed enough to make their own decisions for their health. Gen Z is tired of “faux functionality” and labels like “adaptogen” that don’t mean much to them.

Gen Z is also known for doubling down when their autonomy is threatened.

Hernandez said Gen Z is currently rebelling against the red dye 40 discourse, saying they do not care about the health risks because it makes food taste better. Gen Z’s response to the proposed ban is buying products with the ingredient in bulk and eating even more of it.

According to Hernandez, it is not too late to reign in the excessive health labels and fit what Gen Z is looking for, as Gen Z has the least amount of brand loyalty out of the generations and will switch to what is most appealing to them at the current point in time.

Like Millennials, Gen Z sees snacks as little luxuries, Hernandez said. They also use foods as social signals and might even take photos with luxury items at a fancy grocery store like Erewhon as a prop, then put the product back without buying it.

Gen Z is particularly interested in unique beverages and the personality qualities associated with what they like to drink.

According to Hernandez, the brands Gen Z will actually spend money on need to be honest, authentic and unapologetic.

Hernandez said Gen Z does not care about tradition or legacy, so brands that market products as the same recipes that have been in the family for decades are not as appealing as a startup brand that just launched online in a creative way.

For example, a brand called Hot Girl Pickles started trending online before the product even launched, and Gen Z couldn’t wait to try it once it became available.

Gen Z is looking for brands that can “speak their language” and love limited edition products that create a feeling of scarcity, Hernandez said.