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Move over, Millennials. There are new kids on the block. Now full-fledged adults, Millennials—born between 1980 and 1996, aged 22 to 38—are quickly being upstaged by a new class of youngsters sure to be innovation-demanding disruptors. Introducing Generation Z, also known as Centennials, born between 1996 and 2010, spanning from ages 8 to 22. Now 26% of the U.S. population, Gen Zers already account for between $29 and $143 billion in direct spending.

And just like Millennials, Gen Z is food obsessed. Still living at home or in college dorms, Gen Zers hand over more money for food and drinks than any other spending category (including clothing), and are quickly learning to chop, sear and microwave from kitchy social media channels such as Buzzfeed’s Tasty and Food Network’s Genius Kitchen, as well as influencer posts that capture step-by-step recipes for things like Paleo energy balls, vegan toasts, and unicorn cookies.

Born into a world already transformed by digital technologies, marketers face an entirely new consumer mindset in Generation Z. Unlike any generation before them, Gen Z has never known a world without Facebook or emojis or 24/7 news. They are the first true digital natives, and this unique upbringing is apparent in how Gen Z spends their time and money, and in their relationships—or lack thereof—with brands.

 For starters, Gen Z wants to change the world. Perhaps a result of the Kickstarter-your-way-to-your-dreams mentality, 60% of Gen Zers say they want to have an impact on the world, compared to 39% of Millennials, according to a study by Sparks & Honey. And they expect brands to help them leave their mark.

A survey by DoSomething Strategic found that nearly three-quarters of Gen Z have purchased or would consider purchasing a brand or product to show support for the issues the brand supports. “But perhaps even more importantly,” the study notes, “67% have stopped purchasing or would consider doing so if the company stood for something or behaved in a way that didn’t align with their values.”

Gen Z has scrolled through their most formative years, capturing and curating their own personal brands on platforms like Instagram, YouTube,, and Snapchat. They view the companies they interact with as extensions of their own personal brands. According to Open Mind Strategy’s ethnographic findings, Gen Z brand engagement hinges on three concepts: “Gets Me,” “On Point,” and “Is Legit.” Translation: The brand must help a Gen Zer express him or herself, be a brand that others are talking about and be trustworthy and authentic.

Considering that Gen Z will comprise more than 40% of all shoppers by 2020 , many companies are starting to take notice of these new demands.

This month, Kashi launched Kashi by Kids, a collection of multi-colored, organic, non-GMO, superfood cereals. In true Gen Z fashion, the line of new cereals was co-created with a cohort of Gen Zers eager to have their opinions heard.

“For over a year, we tapped into their sophisticated knowledge and insight and their input went into everything from the superfood ingredients to the flavor combinations to the packaging and the names,” explains Kashi President Tony Chow. “They visited the Kashi villa numerous weekends for hands-on learning sessions and to weigh in on products, and we had regular touch bases with them via email, Skype, and Facetime to get their feedback along the way. They even helped create our launch event by brainstorming ideas to help bring Kashi by Kids to life.”

Kashi by Kids


For the project, Kashi tapped five teens and tweens: 17-year-old youth health activist Haile Thomas, 15-year-old sustainability advocate Hannah Testa, 13-year-old aspiring ballerina Valentine d’Arabian and her 12-year-old sister Charlotte d’Arabian (both daughters of chef and cookbook author Melissa d’Arabian), along with 12-year-old farm-to-table chef Evan Robinson. The group is noticeably diverse, an appropriate nod to Gen Z’s heterogeneity. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half of all Americans under the age of 20 are non-white.)

“When we set out to make this line, we wanted to create foods that kids would love, but also something their parents could feel good about,” says Chow, a worthwhile goal considering Gen Z’s well-known influence over household food choices.

The budding generational power is already on display in one key area: Gen Zers are more health and environment conscious than previous generations, in part due to a change in health education at schools, and a result of Gen X parenting.

“I was most impressed by their deep level of knowledge across food, sustainability, and farming, their willingness to offer opinions and their extensive insight into everything from taste and ingredients, to packaging,” says Chow of the Kashi Crew.

Kashi by Kids product line.

Kashi by Kids product line.COURTESY OF KASHI

The final product line—Berry Crumble crispy purple corn puffs, Honey Cinnamon swirls, and Cocoa Crisp made with Fair Trade certified cocoa—reflect this generation’s do-gooder mentality. Each cereal is Non-GMO Project Verified and includes at least 18g of whole grains, 3g fiber and 8g of sugar or less per serving, accomplished, in part, by the integration of less traditional cereal ingredients, such as nitrogen-fixing chickpeas and lentils.

“All businesses have a responsibility in the world. The food industry must provide healthy food in sustainable packaging. Otherwise, we are putting profit ahead of people, which disproportionately impacts disadvantaged people and ends up costing us more in the long run in government services and healthcare expenses,” says straight-shooting Kashi Crew member Hannah Testa.

And sustainable, healthy foods, she argues, should be made accessible to all: “Organic, healthy cereals that are low in sugar and laden with superfoods don’t have to be available only to the wealthy. It is important that healthy foods that nourish our bodies are available to all walks of life.”

The importance of accessibility and sustainability is echoed by fellow Crew member Haile Thomas, the youngest Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in the U.S. “I think the future success of the food industry is intrinsically linked to creating food that is truly beneficial and nourishing for all beings and Mother Earth,” says Thomas.

Impressed yet?

The Kashi by Kids line is now available in select stores for the accessible price of $3.99. And as you dig into your bowl of Gen Z-approved, sustainable and whole grain puffs, I encourage you to ask yourself: how will your brand address the new Gen Z mindset?



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