SAN LEANDRO, CALIF. — While product developers continue to nail down the preferences of the ever-evolving millennial, Generation Z is slowly bringing a new set of challenges and opportunities to the table. Born between 1996 and 2010, this demographic has learned from its older brethren that they don’t have to settle for traditional bakery items or snacks.

Tracking these changing attitudes can be difficult though, as new preferences can sprout from a picture posted on Instagram or a dish made at a local restaurant. Looking to stay ahead of the curve, Andrew Simmon, division vice-president, consumer marketing, Otis Spunkmeyer, has been examining Gen Z’s needs and how the baking company can serve this segment. He spoke with Baking & Snack and discussed how the brand is staying in tune with this group and its plans for future product development. 

Baking & Snack: How does Gen Z’s eating preferences differ from other generations?

Andrew Simmon: When it comes to making choices about food, Gen Z takes it to another level, taking into consideration both the taste and the experience of eating it. They’re looking for something that will leave them with a memorable experience, something that is unique, whether it’s bold flavors or unique textures that excite their taste buds. Unlike millennials, Gen Z consumers don’t place quite as heavy of an emphasis on making sure a food is non-G.M.O. or organic but do want to know exactly what is in their foods and that it’s ingredients they’re familiar with, such as real butter or sugar.

Andrew Simmon is the division vice-president of consumer marketing at Otis Spunkmeyer.
How is Otis Spunkmeyer staying in tune with this generation’s needs?

Mr. Simmon: Generation Z views their food choices as more than just “something to eat,” but rather, as part of their lifestyle. They take the time to carefully select the foods they eat. Part of our work at Otis Spunkmeyer is keeping tabs on what this generation is eating and what they look for when it comes to snacking. We’re constantly developing new formulas and foods, but understand that our core foods, like the Chocolate Chunk Cookie, really appeal to Gen Z.

What food characteristics does this demographic value?

Mr. Simmon: While we saw millennials pay close attention to things like clean labels, non-G.M.O. and gluten-free, with Generation Z we’re seeing a slight shift by recognizing that these consumers are interested in where the specific ingredients in their food is sourced. As a company, Otis Spunkmeyer has prided itself on sourcing the best ingredients for our foods: using Maine wild blueberries in our blueberry muffins, dark Swiss chocolate, California raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies and Madagascar vanilla in several recipes. We’ve noticed that Gen Z consumers are more willing to buy a food if it’s clear where and how the ingredients were sourced.

What flavors and products appeal most to Gen Z and what do they tend to stray away from? 

Mr. Simmon: Flavor and taste is important to the food and dining experience for Gen Z. They tend to gravitate toward something indulgent and are considered “curious eaters,” especially if the flavors are unique enough to provide a memorable experience. Because of this, we see this generation taking more risks when it comes to their food choices — they are looking for bold flavor profiles, especially when it comes to baked foods.

Has Otis Spunkmeyer released any new products specifically for this demographic? How do they serve Gen Z’s needs?

Mr. Simmon: Last year, we introduced a new line of Grab ‘N’ Go foods available nationwide at convenience stores, catering to the popular movement of on-the-go snacking, which is particularly prevalent in Gen Z consumers. millennials originally lead the charge here, looking for foods that would fit into their busy lifestyle and schedules, and Gen Z is continuing on with this trend of eating on-the-go. Gen Z isn’t unlike their predecessors in this respect, and we’ve experienced positive reactions from our line on Grab ‘N’ Go foods.

How will Gen Z impact Otis Spunkmeyer’s product development in the future?

Mr. Simmon: We’re always working toward the creation of new foods, expanding our current portfolios and introducing new s.k.u.s (stock-keeping units) and flavor profiles. This is something we’ll continue to do, and Generation Z will certainly play a role in that. Although innovation and flavors are important, we’ve noticed that our classics are still the most popular. No matter the generation, the majority of consumers are looking for reliable, great tasting food, and it’s why Otis Spunkmeyer’s original cookie and muffin portfolios continue to be popular across the board.