As the first digitally-native generation, Generation Z, born roughly between the years 1995-2010, has a unique outlook on today’s culture, society, and brands. As documented in our State of Gen Z Snacking series, snacking is an aspect of food culture that has undergone huge disruption, led by Gen Z. What can long-time snacking brands do to thrive in today’s dynamic consumer landscape? Immersed the plant-based, clean-eating trends of today, how can traditional chocolate brands like Hershey’s “sweet-talk” Gen Z consumers into buying their products? We conducted a survey among 2,500 U.S. snackers, ages 13-24, to find out.

Click here to preview the State of Gen Z Snackers Survey

Hershey’s strategy of gaining market share among young consumers has been to transform into an innovative snacking powerhouse and our study confirms that these efforts are resonating.

Hershey remains the king of chocolatiers, as its brands continue to remain immensely popular among the newest generation of snackers. In fact, our survey shows that Generation Z’s top 3 favorite chocolate brands are owned by The Hershey Company (1- Kit Kat, 2- Hershey’s Chocolate, and 3- Reese’s).

Using insights from our survey, we uncovered more about why Hershey continues its domination of the snacking industry, even among Generation Z-ers.

Hershey fans are young consumers that are frequent snackers and avid shoppers.

Although our study surveyed consumers ages 13-24, we found that the majority (53%) of Hershey consumers are 18 years old or younger. Hershey’s consumers are also more likely to snack more often, with a 48% higher likelihood of snacking three times a day or more compared to the overall Gen Z population. In addition, Hershey consumers are avid shoppers, with a 25% higher likelihood of shopping regularly compared to the overall Gen Z population.

Hershey fans prefer young-seeming brands that offer variety.

Studies show that Gen Z embraces brands that embody creativity and convince consumers of their coolness and momentum. Hershey fans are more likely to appreciate brands that project a young, exciting image, with 37% of Hershey fans valuing snack brands that are exciting, cool or fun, up 34% compared to the overall Gen Z population. It’s no surprise, given Hershey’s creative use of omnichannel advertising including Twitch and Facebook Live, targeted especially towards Gen Z-ers. Hershey fans are also 14% more likely to appreciate brands that offer a wide range of products, which The Hershey Company embodies in its vast offering of products and varieties. 

Hershey speaks to Gen Z’s broken hearts.

Life can be bittersweet, just like chocolate. According to our study, Hershey consumers are 32% more likely to snack due to negative emotions, compared to the overall Gen Z population. Nicknamed ‘the loneliest generation’, Gen Z reports the highest rate of mental issues compared to previous generations. In their marketing, Hershey speaks directly to Generation Z-ers, addressing their loneliness and isolation head-on with the launch of the Heartwarming Project, along with their marketing slogan, #heartwarmingtheworld

Hershey tries to diversify beyond being just a chocolate company.

In order to meet demands from Gen Z to make their products more “snackable”, ﹣ portable, on-the-go, convenient and healthier ﹣Hershey is reshaping its brand portfolio to include a wider range of snack products, some without any chocolate. Our study shows that 35% of Gen Z considers portable packaging important in a snack, and more than a quarter (28%) say that the health of a snack is of high importance. Staying ahead of the Gen Z curve, Hershey recently acquired healthier snack options, such as One Brands protein bars, joining previous Hershey acquisitions such as Krave jerky, SkinnyPop popcorn, and Pirate’s Booty baked puffs. They also revamped signature Hershey products to increase the snackability factor, such as introducing Reese’s thin peanut butter cups. Leading company innovation is The Garage, a start-up innovation hub within Hershey that researches and develops new products in a rapid, agile manner.

The Hershey Company has been proactive rather than reactive when it comes to adapting its products, business models and marketing strategies to stay dominant of a market that’s increasingly dominated by Gen Z. As much as Hershey products have been classic household staples enjoyed by generations, Hershey has wisely turned to innovation, creativity and messages that resonate, as it recognizes that the consumer landscape is quickly changing. Our study shows that Hershey chocolate products dominates Gen Z’s taste buds, an optimistic sign of their future as a snacking powerhouse.

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