Jul 17, 2023

The Rise of Blurred Eating: Gen Z's New Food Culture


Say goodbye to traditional eating occasions as Gen Z rejects cultural norms in the latest emerging trend in food

Eating occasions are the defining moments of our day where food and beverages are consumed, from traditional meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner to snacks and coffee breaks. These occasions categorize and illuminate the diverse cultural contexts of food consumption. However, Gen Z are breaking away from the confines of cultural norms and are blurring the lines of traditional eating events.

The full report, filled with even more data, case studies, and detail, is now available on Nextatlas.

Eating Occasions For Gen Z: What's Changing?

For a generation entering the workforce in the post-pandemic landscape who no longer work the conventional nine-to-five, traditional meal occasions are no longer restricted to certain times of day or specific foods, as they transform into distinct food groups that can be enjoyed at any hour.

A chart that tracks the blurred eating occasions trend within the early adopters community of Nextatlas over the past three years and identifies a progressive growth that projects until 2024.

This younger generation are abandoning traditional norms and embracing non-traditional food combinations and unconventional meal choices. Their approach to food is a celebration of individuality and self-expression, as they curate their eating habits to suit their unique tastes and ever-changing schedules. Driven by their values and fueled by the demands of their fast-paced lifestyles, they seek flexibility and convenience in their culinary experiences. What follows is a mere summary of the detailed and comprehensive information available in our new report on this emerging trend.

Savor The Morning At Any Time

Young consumers want fast and nutritious meals for busy weeknights without sacrificing taste, our AI predicting that “Easy Meals” will grow +65% over one year. With jam-packed work lives to fuel and social lives to enjoy, they are choosing quick mid-week meals that align with their health-conscious values but that are bursting with flavor, giving rise to good quality ready-made meals, frozen foods and sheet pan meals.

Statistics of interest related to breakfast flavors in the Nextatlas community

Gen Z are no longer bound by rigid mealtime structures as their workday and workplace varies in the aftermath of Covid-19. They embrace the freedom to enjoy breakfast at dinner or breakfast flavors at any time of day that is convenient to their particular lifestyle. The rise of all-day dining and brunch culture has created an opportunity for breakfast-inspired flavors to flourish throughout the day, with Instagram and TikTok fueling the popularity through sharing visually appealing dishes.

“Brinner”, the concept of having breakfast for dinner, is an encapsulation of this desire that also highlights the lack of categorization or context for food consumption. This year, Cup Noodles introduced instant breakfast ramen in Walmart featuring the classic curly wheat noodles, dehydrated egg and sausage pieces with a sauce infused with artificial essences of maple, butter, and pancakes to create a uniquely flavored meal that combines both sweet and savory breakfast flavors.

Image credits: Nissan Foods US

Exploring Global Cuisine and Sustainable Innovation

In an interconnected world, Gen Z are on a quest for culturally diverse and unique culinary experiences, exploring international ingredients and sharing their gastronomic discoveries online. They don’t follow rigid culinary rules and embrace fusion gastronomy, with portable and customizable creations like breakfast burritos rising in popularity. The appeal lies not only in their capability of catering to a wide range of diets - from kosher to vegan -  and global flavors but also in their portability, as they are an ideal on-the-go breakfast option for busy individuals that provide a convenient and exciting breakfast experience.

The main terms and concepts associated with conversations that mention “breakfast burritos”

This quest for diverse ingredients extends to innovations that respect dietary diversity and sustainability, allowing Gen Z to enjoy food while adhering to their inclusive and environmentally conscious values. Their awareness of ethical and sustainable choices has driven the exploration of eggless alternatives and our AI technology shows that eggless cooking is on the rise. 

JUST Egg announced their availability in 48,000 retail locations across America and Canada, with one major source of this expansion being CPG companies using their plant-based egg products as a branded ingredient in frozen breakfast burritos and sandwiches. Additionally, JUST Egg recently launched JUST Egg Meals, a frozen meal featuring a mix of vegetables and JUST Egg bites to provide a quick and convenient plant-based ready-meal option.

Image credits: 

Adaptable Nutrition for Active Lifestyles

Gen Z's lives are characterized by their bustling and varied schedules, yet they continue to prioritize health and fitness amidst their fast-paced lifestyles. Their adaptable food mindset extends to reducing the concept of a proper meal to the convenience of nutritional intake, as they seek options that can be consumed on-the-go while fueling their exercise endeavors.

Statistics behind terms related to this aspect of the trend in the Nextatlas community

Their focus on physical health has propelled protein to the forefront of their eating habits, from convenient post-workout foods like smoothies and protein shakes to high-protein snacks like protein bars and balls. The versatility and customization of these type of products allow Gen Z to tailor them to meet their specific dietary preferences, whether it's vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free. Popular ingredients like chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter satisfy the desire for traditional sweet breakfast flavors and indulgent dessert-like food choices. Additionally, the formulation and taste of meal replacement products has greatly improved and they now provide a quick and easy option for busy youngsters to get all of their nutritional requirements in a flash.

Huel, the UK-based meal replacement company, is one of the top brands mentioned by our early adopters. Recently, Huel announced investments from actor Idris Elba, TV presenter Jonathan Ross, and founder of fitness apparel brand TALA, Grace Beverley, to develop the brand's sustainability strategy and more plant-based products. 

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Adapting to the Future: Gen Z's Impact on Food

Overall, the food trends observed among Gen Z highlight their unique approach to eating, characterized by flexibility, cultural exploration, and prioritization of convenience and nutritional value. As this generation continues to shape the food landscape, it is evident that their adaptable mindset and desire for diverse and convenient options will drive new food innovations.

As the future of eating occasions becomes more fluid, the food industry and restaurants have an opportunity to meet consumer demands by:

  • Introducing hybrid meals in food offerings with dinner and breakfast inspired dishes being incorporated to all-day menus

  • Rejecting rigid norms associated with meal categories and surprising consumers with novel and bold interpretations of well known classics

  • Redefining the concept of a "proper" meal to cater to consumers' need for convenience and nutritional intake

Want to know more? Download the free sneak peek!

Get the sneak peek now and discover the hottest Gen Z food trend. For full access to statistics, case studies, and essential data, get the report today!

Download the report now

Trend lines, data, and information described in this article emerge from the ongoing analysis performed by Nextatlas on its global observation pool made of innovators, early adopters, industry insiders expressing their views on Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit.

To learn more about our AI, discover Nextatlas Methodology here

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