Yannick Blättler: "Companies need to develop a strong digital ear"

Yannick Blättler, the founder and owner of Neoviso, knows Gen Z inside out. His company regularly conducts studies on 15- to 25-year-olds and advises SMEs and corporations on how to interact with them. In an interview with the GDI, he explains the importance of Gen Z for the food industry as well as the best way to reach the customers of tomorrow.
18 April, 2024 by
Yannick Blättler: "Companies need to develop a strong digital ear"
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

GDI: Mr Blättler, Gen Z, today's 15- to 25-year-olds, have been eating and drinking for just as many years - and will continue to do so for decades to come. Why should they be of particular interest to the food industry right now?

Yannick Blättler: Our observations reveal three exciting influences. Firstly, this generation has grown up with the debate on vegetarian, vegan, sustainable and natural nutrition. Of course, they aren't all "vegan," as some people like to mock them, but they have been able to follow these discussions from an early age. Secondly, the impact of social media shouldn't be underestimated. Many parents tell us how their children suddenly come up with food-related wishes that they've seen on Instagram or TikTok. This effect also goes the other way: they have enormous power to quickly spread information and recommendations via social media. Thirdly, it's a question about the future. This is the generation that will be on the market as consumers for the longest. We must therefore think today about the trends of tomorrow in order to inspire these consumers.

This brings us to the old chicken-and-egg problem: is consumer behaviour by Gen Z forcing companies to innovate? Or, conversely, are companies influencing the behaviour of young consumers through innovation and clever marketing?

The food industry has always been reactive. There are always innovation drivers, but the main market follows the general trends. We can already see that Gen Z has strong demands for innovative, healthy and sustainable products. Of course there is a lot of information, and its speed and availability are, of course, huge. As mentioned in the previous question, I would certainly argue that social media has had a much stronger influence on Gen Z diets than clever marketing by companies. This is why we urge companies to not only post on social media, but above all develop a strong digital ear in order to practice good social listening and recognise these trends early on.

Was haben Zoomer, das ihre Eltern oder älteren Geschwister nicht haben? Und was haben sie, das ihre Kinder oder jüngeren Geschwister nicht haben werden?

Gen Z is not a completely new breed of people per se. Rather, they are experiencing a very interesting context in which they are fortunate enough to grow up. Switzerland is a very prosperous country, technology is highly developed and taken for granted, and many innovative products that cover a wide range of individual needs are already available. This self-evident mindset certainly defines Gen Z. Even if it's obvious, social media is definitely having a stronger influence on Gen Z than on any other generation - even Gen Alpha, since most of these aren't allowed to be on social media yet.

Ändern Gen Z'ler durch ihre Dynamik auch die Foodkultur anderer Generationen? Oder behalten sie ihre kulinarischen Hotspots lieber für sich?

I do believe that we are seeing influence moving in this direction. To influence other people, we must inspire them. As content is shared as a matter of course in restaurants, in the kitchen, at home or when consuming products, a lot of this content is also viewed by older generations. It's also exciting to observe that the young generation continues to function as a target image in terms of their body, health, aesthetics and sports. This is nothing new. It's simply still the case.

Und wie sieht das bei Ihnen persönlich aus? Gibt es Speisen, Getränke oder Rezepte, die Ihre Eltern von Ihnen übernommen haben? Wenn ja, welche und wie kam das?

My mother is half Dutch, half Indonesian. Of course, I don't go a week without rice from the rice steamer! At the beginning of our relationship, my girlfriend Annina thought I was joking when I said that I could eat basmati rice every day. Indonesian cuisine was therefore certainly a strong inspiration. Apart from that, I thought it was great that I could be in the kitchen with my father from an early age. In this way, I quickly learned the basics, and now love cooking for myself. Not only is it healthy and entertaining. It also helps me to wind down from my often hectic working life.

Yannick Blättler will speak at the International Food Innovation Conferen​ce, die am 19. Juni 2024 am Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut stattfindet. Er wird über Gen Z sprechen und wie diese die Esskultur verändern wird. Jetzt anmelden!

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