Thoughtful and more in touch with their emotions and desires than older generations, values-based Gen Zers represent a true bright spot in the natural and organic products industry’s future. Get to know them.

Robyn Lawrence, Senior Editor

March 28, 2024

2 Min Read
Industry Monitor

They grew up just as natural and organic products began to mainstream and embraced the same values. If they choose to eat meat, they want it to be raised humanely; their personal care products must be cruelty-free; and their labels need to be clean. They pay attention to who owns the brands they support and how the ethics behind the products they buy align with their own.

Meet Gen Z, the natural and organic products industry’s most aligned consumer—and a cohort that stands ready to take over the world.

New Hope Network Senior Vice President and Market Leader Carlotta Mast, along with Whipstitch Capital Managing Director Nick McCoy, SPINS Chief of Staff Kathryn Peters and food ethnographer June Jo Lee, introduced the industry to this generation—which is on track to hit $33 trillion in earnings by 2030 and surpass millennials’ buying power by 2031—during the“State of Natural & Organic” keynote address at Expo West. Gen Z, McCoy pointed out during the address, is financially on par with where millennials were in 2006. “They are coming into consumer buying power at full force,” he said. “The growth of their dollars is wildly outpacing others.”

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According to Lee, who has researched Gen Z extensively, food is a crucial identity marker for the first global youth generation of ultra-connected digital natives. They’re open-minded and eager for new flavor experiences such as umami and fermentation—“spicy is the sweet spot,” she says—and they see breaking bread together as an expression of caring and connecting. Food and flavors are emotional medicine for Gen Z, and they love comfort foods including gluten, carbs and what Lee calls “cute fats” that keep them warm and comforted.

“In the U.S., they’re the greatest diversity we’ve seen so far and also the most college-educated, which means their food life is expansive beyond their first family food traditions,” Lee said during the keynote. “They’re third-culture kids, the first internationalized youth generation. They’re mixed and hyphenated—not only their ethnic identity—but they’re also open, hybrid, nonbinary, queer by default, exploring who they are. They have fluid and creative identities, and food is also very creative and very fluid.”

If you missed the keynote, New Hope’s State of Natural Report offers a good look at Gen Z’s preferences and proclivities through market sizing data and consumer insights across the natural and organic products market. Gen Z shoppers told Nutrition Business Journal that convenience is paramount when choosing food, they prefer to shop at warehouse stores like Costco, and they’d rather consume functional food and beverages than take supplements or pharmaceuticals.

Thoughtful and more in touch with their emotions and desires than older generations, values-based Gen Zers represent a true bright spot in the natural and organic products industry’s future. It’s time your brand got to know them.

About the Author(s)

Robyn Lawrence

Senior Editor, New Hope Network

The author of four books, Robyn Lawrence has written in the natural lifestyle, food and wellness space since she helped launch Natural Home magazine in 1999. She was Natural Home’s editor-in-chief for 11 years and has been an editor for several national magazines, including Mother Earth News and Herb Companion. As senior editor for NBJ, she writes articles and contributes to report content.  

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