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Dairy Can Win Back Gen Z by Fulfilling their Health Needs 

29th March 2021

Christina Howlett, Dairy Sector, Bord Bia


(Image by: Bord Bia)

Generation Z are true digital natives. Born between 1997 and 2012, they have been exposed to social media, internet and mobile systems from an early age. They value uniqueness, unlimited and ethical consumption (McKinsey, 2018).

According to Mintel (2020), Gen Z are more likely than the average consumer to avoid animal-derived products due to concerns around allergies, ethics, the environment and health issues. Gen Z prioritise health and wellness, they are keen consumers of sports nutrition products, and are key users of social media platforms. Therefore, the functional attributes of Irish dairy products have the potential to renew interest in consumption among this demographic (Mintel, 2020).

Gen Z prioritise looking good, keeping fit and eating healthily. 75% of Swedish consumers aged 16-24 stated that it was important for them to lead an active lifestyle. Dairy products are well positioned to appeal to this demographic due to its natural protein, vitamin and mineral content. 54% of UK Gen Z consumers agree that the naturally-occurring nutrients in dairy milk make it a healthy choice. If these benefits are communicated properly, dairy has a great opportunity to attract Gen Z. Functional ingredients like adaptogens (e.g. Chaga - aids wellness) and collagen (improves skin texture) appeal to Gen Z, and 61% of UK Gen Z consumers say that added micronutrients make already healthy foods (such as yogurt) healthier (Mintel, 2020).

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Adaptogen: Good Culture Wellness Probiotic Chocolate and Chaga Gut Shot (US)


The need to keep fit and healthy subsequently develops a desire for higher protein food and drink to support an active lifestyle. 45% of UK Gen Z consumers believe eating high-protein foods support their health, and 43% think that protein is required to gain muscle definition. 58% of UK Gen Z consumers who purchase cheese believe it is an easy way to get protein into their diet, therefore there is an opportunity to demonstrate cheese’s protein content to drive consumption. 29% of Finnish Gen Z consumers say that high protein content in food is important when food shopping. Dairy brands can target Gen Z consumers with products designed to prepare the body for physical activity, or support muscle recovery (Mintel, 2020).

Dairy brands will also need to think ethically, as some Gen Z consumers have given up on dairy products for the sake of the planet and sustainability considerations. Should this cut-back trend continue with Gen Z consumers, this could pose a long-term threat to the industry (Mintel, 2020a). These brands will need to give tangible guarantees that they are committed to the long-term ‘health’ of the earth. Innovative approaches to formats and packaging should reflect the dairy industry’s ethical commitments (Mintel, 2020).

Finally, if dairy companies want to attract Gen Z consumers, they must embrace and utilise social media. YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat are dominated by Gen Z consumers. Such platforms are ideal for showcasing healthy dairy recipes. In terms of influencer activity, brands should consider working with micro-influencers (less than 10k followers) to engage Gen Z consumers, instead of traditional branded advertising, as it’s easier to identify with them (Mintel, 2020).

In conclusion, Irish dairy companies should be attuned to the importance of health and wellness in order to appeal to this younger generation. They must leverage the functional benefits of Irish dairy in order to renew interest in consumption among this influential cohort.




  • Francis T. & Hoefel F. (2018) ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies. McKinsey & Co.
  • Vlietstra K. (2020) Dairy can serve the health needs of Gen Z. Mintel.
  • Roux C. (2020) Gen Z consumers call for new cheese category norms. Mintel (2020a)