Gen Z Spends More On Food Than Anything Else & Prioritise Conscious Brands, Survey Finds

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Generation Z, the group of teenagers and young adults born between 1997 to 2012, are spending more on food than any other product category and prefer value-led brands that care about social and environmental issues. These results, revealed in the latest semi-annual U.S. survey, also found that thrifting and secondhand purchases have become “second nature” to the increasingly influential consumer group. 

Food has returned as the number one wallet priority for Gen Z consumers, according to the latest survey conducted by the American financial firm Piper Sandler. The U.S. poll, which involved more than 7,000 Gen Z consumers in the country, found that food spending contributed nearly a quarter (23%) of the total self-reported spending, up from 21% recorded in the previous survey conducted in late 2020.  

Total spending from the group rose to US$2,165 per year as the younger generation continues to grow their influence over the broader market in shifting demand, driving consumer trends, impacting brand strategies. Together, Gen Zs in the U.S. alone contribute around US$830 billion to retail sales annually, found the Piper Sandler report. 

Food takes up most of the wallet space for Gen Zs. (Image Source: Thistle)

Read: 10 ways Gen Zs and millennials are changing what & how we buy 

Gen Z is a conscious generation as teens this Spring cite racial equality and the environment as their top-two social issues.

Erinn Murphy, Senior Research Analyst, Piper Sandler

Gen Z consumers are also far more conscious in their spending habits, citing racial equality as their number one priority issue, followed by environmental concerns. They prefer brands that support the Black Lives Matter campaign, for instance, and nearly half (49%) said they either already consume or are willing to try sustainable plant-based meats, with Impossible Foods being their top brand of choice, closely trailed by Beyond Meat. 

Previous studies have noted the mainstreaming of plant-based meats among Gen Zs, with U.S.-based data released in December 2020 finding that consumers in the 18 to 24 age group were 22% more likely than the overall population to eat plant-based meat, poultry or seafood alternatives.

“Gen Z is a conscious generation as teens this Spring cite racial equality and the environment as their top-two social issues,” said Erinn Murphy, senior research analyst at Piper Sandler. 

Aligned with their conscious purchasing habits, Gen Zs polled in the survey are spending more on secondhand items, as circularity and sustainability becomes increasingly important factors to young consumers. The survey found nearly half (47%) have purchased used products, while more than half (55%) have sold secondhand items

Gen Zs are purchasing secondhand items and shopping online more than ever before. (Source: Getty)

Read: 5 ways conscious consumerism is driving the resale boom

Thrifting [is] emerging as a strong trend as thinking secondhand is becoming second nature to teens.

Erinn Murphy, Senior Research Analyst, Piper Sandler

Thrift or consignment shops are also rising in popularity, with these stores ranking among their list of top ten brands or retail stores of choice. 

“Thrifting [is] emerging as a strong trend as thinking secondhand is becoming second nature to teens,” commented Murphy. 

Another trend that Piper Sandler analysts highlighted was the all-time high in online shopping and digital consumption among Gen Zs, especially amid the pandemic, which has led to the significant growth in influence of “influencers” on social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. 

“In the wake of Covid-19 and given these consumers are digitally-native, we are not surprised to see online adoption at its highest ever this Spring,” said Murphy. 

According to the survey, a whopping 86% of female Gen Z shoppers use online influencers as their source of discovery for new brands and trends. Digital shopping continued to rise as a whole, with 96% and 92% of females and males saying they shop online, up from last year’s 88% and 91% respectively. 

Lead image courtesy of Impossible Foods.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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