U.S. Sustainable Food Market Generation Z Consumer Segments

Iowa State University

Publication Release Date: June 30, 2019
Date Posted: May 19, 2020
Submitted by: Joan Su
Sustainability Topics: Public Engagement, Food & Dining
Content Type: Publications
Publisher: MDPI
Periodical Name: Sustainability
Type: Journal Article


This study explores the interaction between environmental consciousness and sustainable food attributes as predictors in the market segmentation process for sustainable foods with respect to United States (U.S.) Generation Z (Gen Z) consumers. This study was executed using a cross-national, web-based survey to analyze and categorize Gen Z female (n = 435) and male (n = 377) consumers between 18 and 23 years of age living in the continental United States. The objectives of this study were to classify U.S. Gen Z consumers into unique segments based on their environmental consciousness and to assess the functional relationships among the following: (a) their degree of ecological awareness; (b) the importance of the perception of sustainable food attributes; (c) their food choices associated with healthy eating habits; and (d) sociodemographics. Survey data were analyzed using cluster analysis of consumer groups based on environmental consciousness. Environmental consciousness was measured using a composite score of the environmental involvement scale and the environmental values scale. Gen Z consumers with high environmental consciousness (sustainable activists) and moderate ecological awareness (sustainable believers) considered more eco-friendly and healthy product attributes when purchasing sustainable food, whereas Gen Z consumers with low environmental consciousness (sustainable moderates) considered more extrinsic product attributes (e.g., price and convenience). Furthermore, the results indicate that food choices associated with healthy eating habits could be used to develop a profile for different eco-conscious Gen Z consumer groups. The contributions of this study are twofold. First, for academic researchers, this paper extends marketing segmentation research concerning environmentally sensitive young consumers. Second, for industry professionals, this study provides food retailers or food service operators with sustainable consumer values that will aid in the development of effective, green marketing strategies to better attract and meet the sustainability expectations of Gen Z—the consumer segment with the most spending power of any generation.


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