Generation Z, born roughly between 1995 to 2010, is set to become the largest and most influential generation of consumers in just a few years. One of the many traditions being upended by Gen Z is contemporary food culture, where Gen Z-ers are embracing bold flavors and extreme sensations in their snacks. In order to better understand what Generation Z is snacking on and why, we conducted a survey of 2,500 13-24-year-olds in the U.S.

According to our study, 75% of Gen Z regularly or occasionally consumes salty snacks like chips, pretzels, and popcorn, 38% consume chocolate and 36% consume candy. Out of curiosity, we decided to dig deeper within these snack categories to learn more about Gen Z-ers who prefer brands with extreme flavors (ultra-salty, ultra-sweet or ultra-sour). We found some fascinating insights among snackers who love extremely sweet and salty snack brands, specifically Lay’s, Skittles, and Sour Patch Kids, the brands that infuse extreme tastes into their snacks.

Taste the Skittles rainbow? Mind the sugar!

Skittles is a longtime candy brand staple in the U.S, particularly popular among teens and young adults. According to our survey, 64% of candy-snacking Gen Z-ers prefer Skittles. Skittles lovers may not realize, however, that these colorful candies are made of more than 70% sugar in weight, and were recently ranked as one of the sweetest candies in the world. It’s not surprising then that only 17% of Skittles fans try to curb sugar intake from their diets.

Sour Patch Kids’ “sour then sweet” experience makes candy fun. Sour Patch Kids are the #1 preferred candy brand among Gen Z snackers, according to our survey. With their distinctive “sour then sweet” flavor (which is also their marketing slogan), Sour Patch Kids are known for containing such extreme flavors. No wonder Gen Z adores these sour sugar-coated fruity gummies.

Mystery solved: The perfect amount of saltiness and crunchiness are the keys to Lay’s success

Our survey ranked Lay’s as the most popular chip brand among Generation Z salty snackers, with 62% selecting it as a preferred brand. Recent potato chip taste rankings may explain its appeal, with Lay’s consistently voted the best-tasting chip brand due to its ultra crunchiness and saltiness. Unlike Cheetos, which is more popular among Gen Z females and Doritos, more popular among males, Lay’s appeals equally to both genders.

What do extreme-flavor snackers have in common?

When comparing the demographics of each of the three major “extreme” brands ﹣Lay’s, Skittles and Sour Patch ﹣we found that snackers of all three brands are very demographically similar to one another. Our study also found a high audience overlap among extreme taste preferences, meaning that Gen Z snackers who pursue the extremely salty tastes of Lay’s are more likely to prefer the sour and sweet tastes of Sour Patch Kids and Skittles, and vice versa.  73% of the Lay’s lovers who snack on candy also love Skittles; 79% of Skittles lovers who snack on chips also love Lay’s; 76% of Sour Patch Kids fans like both Lay’s and Skittles

Which Gen Z-ers are more likely to snack on extreme-flavored snack brands?

Gen Z snackers who reported in our survey that they prefer Lay’s, Skittles and/or Sour Patch are referred to as a whole in this post as “extreme-flavor snackers”. Studies show how we interpret flavors is a result of various factors: genetics, demographics, cultural cuisines and emotions. So who among Gen Z is most likely to seek out the extreme flavors of a snack?

Some more in-depth insights about extreme flavor pursuers:

In order to truly understand Generation Z, snack brands need to segment audiences by taste preferences, as snacking frequency, habits, and preferred brand are largely dependent on consumer taste buds. Our study found a large correlation and audience overlap between pursuers of extremely salty, sweet and sour tastes, as well as distinct characteristics for these snackers.

Snack brands should take into account for branding and marketing efforts that their intensely flavored products largely appeal to younger consumers, who do not often have their own income and are usually not the decision-makers when it comes to household purchases. They should also consider partnerships with other products that are notably popular among extreme-flavor seekers, such as Rice Krispies Treats and Keebler cookies. By leveraging Segmanta’s survey builder and analytics dashboard, brands can easily launch a survey among their target market and segment their audience by behaviors such as extreme-flavor seekers. Using such in-depth, data-driven insights to support business and marketing decisions should become a common practice for brands.


Discover more valuable Gen Z snacking insights