Friday, March 31, 2023

Pizza Expo 2023: Key Takeaways to Better Market to Gen Z


The Las Vegas Convention Center hosted the 39th edition of the International Pizza Expo this past week. Attendees come primarily from mom-and-pop pizzerias across the country and the exhibitors cater to their needs with everything from ovens to pans to delivery boxes, and, of course, pizza-making ingredients, as well as pub grub like wings and Italian-inspired dishes such as pasta and cannoli.   

This was my second year in a row attending and there were some notable differences between the two years. These are differences that reflect the evolving consumer and differences that apply to other food sectors. 

Younger consumers view pizza as a canvas to taste the world. Those younger consumers are Gen Z, the group that has just started getting a decent paycheck and is using it to experience life, after all, so much was taken from them in their early years and they have little faith in the world going forward. 

That’s why Blaze Pizza, in the opinion of college kids, is “lit,” according to a report by Yelp and BrokeScholar. Of the 144 universities researched, 20 voted Blaze Pizza as their favorite fast-food restaurant. Seven Blaze locations received a Yelp rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. The pizza chain gained praise in part because it appeals to Gen Z’s demands for responsibly sourced ingredients and eco-friendly packaging, according to The Food Institute.

Blaze Pizza provides the canvas for Gen Z to pick and choose toppings. It's pizza customization and personalization. It's fresh. It's pricey. It provides experience.  

The fact is that Gen Z has very different money habits. Pizzerias are adapting to their preferences. Dairy brands must do the same. 

McKinsey research indicates that Gen Z is willing to spend on experiences that enrich their daily lives, though how they determine what enriches their lives, like spending on wellness and self-care, differs from previous generations. They are willing to spend on luxury items; however, how they define luxury differs from previous generations. They are also demanding brands adopt sustainable practices. 

“They’re looking beyond tangible products and actually trying to understand what is it that makes the company tick,” said Bo Finneman, partner at McKinsey. “What’s its mission? What’s its purpose? And what is it actually trying to build for us as a society?”

Gen Z missed out on a lot during the pandemic and they are not going to miss out on any more. They have a bucket list, and they’ve started working on it, even if that means moving back in with the parents. (I am living this right now!)

They are starting to make decisions about how and where they spend their money. Brands that attract them now have a chance to create brand affinities that will last a lifetime. They are also looking for new brands to support and, when possible, avoid the most popular brands at big box retailers. They love Aldi! 

That brings me to a new report--Top priorities for dairy executives in 2023—from McKinsey. Link to it HERE

Findings include that by focusing on growth, resilience and sustainability, dairy processors have an opportunity to leverage momentum and engage consumers and customers with a unified story. 
Here’s where it gets good. This is where it all comes back to pizza. 

Despite current challenges, including declining fluid-milk consumption, 45% of executives surveyed by McKinsey are prioritizing new growth opportunities by “entering new categories, markets and geographies.” Most executives expressed optimism about the future of dairy. 

One dairy executive said, “Despite the slowdown in the economy, dairy consumption has not gone down. We still have consumer loyalty. We are a staple; and on top of that, there are a lot of different, exciting forms of dairy products coming down the pipeline.”  

Another said, “We don’t have time to see where the customer is going to be; we need to jump in together and solve it.”

The pizza industry is doing it with their crusts, some being gluten-free and others cauliflower based. The same with toppings. And, they are trying all types of cheeses, but as of now, most are sticking with the REAL deal. Plant-based meats are faring better. Even plant-based pepperoni tastes yummy when it is topped with hot honey. (Hot honey was booming at Pizza Expo.) 

Remember with Gen Z, experience is a part of the equation. My friends at Dutch Farms get it with the company’s new The Corner Booth pizza brand. It’s being marketed as being made with the best sausage and pepperoni, the freshest vegetables and 100% REAL thick-cut cheese. Yes, packages sport the REAL seal. 

Gen Z appreciates authenticity. They want REAL!

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