Gen Z and millennials aren’t just rebelling by swapping meals for snacks—they want something ‘experiential’ for TikTok, Oreo’s analytics chief says

A person smiling and eating a bowl of popcorn
Gen Z and millennials are big snackers—and they want their snacks to be a lot of things.
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Gen Z and millennials demand a lot from food. They’re accustomed to an on-the-go lifestyle in which convenient snacks are the norm rather than three sit-down meals daily. Even then, millennials and Gen Zers want their snacks to taste good, be nutritious, and feel like a whole experience—and better if the snacks are worth posting about on social media or to start a viral trend. 

“What we’ve really seen is because they are big snackers, they want variety and diversity,” Nick Graham, global insights and analytics chief at Mondelez, the packaged food giant behind Oreo, Ritz and more, told Fortune

Graham gave the example of limited edition Oreo packs, which included a version with Lady Gaga-themed cookies and another that comes in a spicy chicken flavor. Those products, he said, were designed to offer consumers something familiar, but with a twist, to elevate the snacking experience for Gen Z and millennials.  

“We think about them not just as a product, but a whole consumer experience,” Graham said. “I think what’s as important for these generations isn’t just the flavor of the product.”

According to Mondelez, there is an “increasing interest in more experiential snacks, [and] novel or exotic flavors,” and 80% of the Gen Z and millennials are open to trying new flavors.

“Gen Z and millennials have grown up in a world of choice,” Graham said. “What we’ve seen is their needs from snacking are much more diverse.” 

The eating patterns for Gen Z and millennials have been shifting for years, according to Mondelez, due to busier lifestyles, affordability, and more choices. There is also a generational difference in how snacking is perceived. Graham noted that older generations viewed snacking as a treat or indulgence, but Gen Z and millennials grew up at a time when mealtime was becoming “fragmented,” making snack-eating more mainstream. 

Younger generations are fueling the snacking trend. Seventy-four percent of U.S. consumers under 35 snack at least a few times daily, according to data insights company 84.51°, compared to just 50% for those over 35. 

And social media plays an important role in feeding the need for new and innovative items. TikTok, in particular, is where the younger generation seeks suggestions and discovers food trends. 

When it comes to snacking, TikTok is the top platform for Gen Zers seeking ideas for what items to purchase, according to a survey by the social media company earlier this year. TikTok’s data also showed that 77% of the users tried new things after the platform’s fellow snackaholics inspired them to. For example, clips about making ice cream out of cottage cheese and slabs of yogurt “barks” have had tens of millions of views, TikTok found. 

Graham noted that social media marketing of snack brands like Mondelez factor into whether products become popular among younger generations. Services like TikTok, he said, have given birth to food trends like combining sweet elements with savory dishes, or vice versa. 

“All of these flavors are coming from this desire for novel experiences,” Graham said. “I think even more so just because of the amount of stimulus that these two generations are getting.”

Taste and flavor remain the main criteria for choosing any snack to buy, with 67% of the shoppers surveyed by 84.51° aged between 18 and 34 saying it’s their top priority. Across all age groups, 72% of shoppers prioritized taste over convenience or ability to fulfill their cravings. 

“The younger shopper is a little bit more demanding because they know they can be and that’s how they’ve grown up, and I think the industry responds pretty well to that,” Alexandra Trott, 84.51°’s director of insights, told Fortune. “So the younger generation just wants it all.”

Junk food, which includes potato chips or sugary drinks, has been linked to health risks like obesity and diabetes, but Gen Z and millennials tend to find balance between healthy and not-so-healthy treats they consume. For instance, younger shoppers often check product ingredients when they shop and therefore, opt for yogurt-based snacks for breakfast, for instance. 

“They’re looking for something that has a little bit more nutritional value,” Trott told Fortune. She gave the example of granola bars and protein bars being used as meal replacements, often in the mornings. Even with nutrition in mind, Trott pointed out that consumers, primarily Gen Z and millennials, would not sacrifice on taste. 

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