How Gen Z is changing what we eat

How Gen Z is changing what we eat

TikTok and Instagram’s influence on the food industry is not only creating trends and viral recipes but also shaping the way we eat. With 40% of social media users in the UK saying they use TikTok and 60% of 13 to 24-year-olds on the app, it’s no surprise that Gen Z kids are driving our new food and eating out choices.


What’s more, we all know young people love to eat. Our own data shows that In the last year, GoHenry kids in the UK, aged 6-18, spent a grand total of £7.85 million on their top three food delivery apps, with an average transaction of £18.45.


Plus, studies show Gen Z are exposed to food marketing around 30-189 times per week on social media, so it’s no big surprise that the hashtag #food has gained over 555bn views and the #foodtok community has over 2.6M posts relating to recipes, food trends, and must-try dishes.


It’s why  #KoreanFood is having a moment, with food influencers like @ashyizzle and @johnnykyunghwo showering teens with advice on the benefits of kimchi (fermented cabbage and carrots), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and bibimbap (Korean rice bowls). Another Gen Z food trend aims to make everyday meals easy and fun. The #Lunchbox trend is fuelled by lunchbox purchases on TikTok Shop (36,000 sold to date), with people sharing their perfectly packed lunches. For those who love something sweet, check out #DessertBowl - where all you have to do is grab your favourite sweet treats and mix them together. All with minimal washing up. 


Gen Z are experimental foodies


Gen Z is, beyond a doubt, a foodie generation. Generational expert Dr Eliza Filby agrees, “Kids are interested in food: experimenting with food, the social aspect of food, talking about food, reading about food – as well as veganism and food production. I think it’s partly because their parents were the first generation to really start watching cookery shows and following writers like Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson – the food revolution was very much a late 90s thing, so they’ve grown up with foodie culture.” 

This is why research from Ketchum’s Gen Z and Food report shows that 82% of Gen Z like cooking, 78% like experimenting with food, and 70% are willing to trust a food trend and follow food influencers.

As for their food heroes, forget Michelin-starred chefs and say hello to food influencers such as Keith Lee, who has 16M followers and an honest and humorous take on all things food. Or the Ramen King Ivan McCombs, a food influencer focused on one thing and one thing only: ramen. This man lives, breathes, eats Gen Z’s favourite dish daily and shares it on his TikTok page.


Additionally, it’s not just Gen Z being affected by the lure of food delights on social media. 81% of home cooks now find their recipes on social media. Quick and easy is core to what they want, with the top factors being how long it will take to cook (75 percent), whether they have the ingredients on hand (74 percent), and how difficult it is to cook (48 percent).


Some of these easy, no-fuss recipes have clocked up millions of views, with Pasta Bake (111.4 M views), Spicy Twisty Cucumber (71.8m), Chicken Pasta (78.5 m) and the many, many variations on cornflake-coated fried chicken (12m see below) leading the dinner charge.


The new food trends to watch out for


Some of the many new mainstream trends, such as bubble tea, bao buns, and the classic avocado on toast, all began as TikTok favourites. As for what’s next, here are the biggest Gen Z treats currently winging their way to you.


Ramen Carbonara


The biggest recipe on TikTok right now, with millions of views, fans and reviews, is Ramen Carbonara. The recipe probably has most Italians screaming, as it’s the classic Italian carbonara but with a packet of instant ramen noodles instead of pasta!!! Enjoy.


Korean corn dogs 


If you love  K-drama, K-beauty or K-pop, then it’s likely you love Korean corn dogs: fried, golden-battered hot dogs with mozzarella on a stick. Sometimes, they’re covered with panko, potato pieces, or ramen, but they are always deep-fried and finished with sugar and a signature squirt of ketchup, mayo, mustard, or all three. 

Japanese Souffle pancakes 


These giant souffle pancakes are currently wobbling across social media. They start with the same ingredients as regular varieties - eggs, flour, and milk, but they tower above traditional versions. This is thanks to the addition of extra egg whites, whipped up to give a souffle effect. All are served with social media’s favourite toppings, such as Biscoff biscuit, Yuzu Blueberry, and Nutella.

Crunchy Cornflake Coated Fried Chicken


We love a recipe that does what it says on the packet. This one is basically fried chicken covered in smashed cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs with an added touch of honey and hot chilli sauce. It’s surprisingly good and well worth trying for dinner tonight.


What next for Gen Z food palates

As the newest generation of food consumers with purchasing power, Gen Z is again doing things their way. Not only do they want to talk about their food experiences on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. but they are passionately driving a movement to challenge and change the way we eat. A challenge that’s helping us all to be a little more experimental about everything from what we cook to the ingredients we buy and even what we’re willing to try.
Written by Anita Naik Published Apr 22, 2024 ● 3 mins