Image above: Adding flavoring to make Cheetos even spicier.
When it comes to CPG brands and their “magnetism” with the Gen Z cohort, it actually pays to be old.
That’s because consumers born between 1997 and 2012 grew up with brands like Coca-Cola and Oreos that evoke nostalgia while at the same time continuing to innovate—particularly with new flavors and versatility of use.
“They play the delicate balance of familiar yet novel exquisitely well, staying innovative and bold while also staying comfortable,” concludes a Q3 brand relevance report from New York-based Gen Z research and strategy firm dcdx.
“With CPG the classics are here to stay, but Gen Z loves an opportunity to try a new flavor, food combo or challenge from their favorite brands.”
To calculate CPG “brand magnetism,” dcdx analyzed the popularity and consistency of user-generated content on TikTok and YouTube of 39 brands.
In all, the company observed more than 440 million social interactions.
“One key theme is flavor variation,” dcdx founder Andrew Roth tells CPG Insider. “Brands that continue to innovate and produce new flavors continue to cause conversations. Among the top five, that’s especially prevalent.”
Another finding: Product versatility can be important.
“A lot of CPG brands are being used by young audiences as either ingredients. or to put into something else,” says Roth.
“As ingredients, they’re conversation drivers. People take interest in how this traditional snack or beverage from their childhood has [generated] a new way of eating it.”
According to the dcdx analysis, it’s not uncommon for Coke fans to be “obsessed” with a nostalgic drink that’s been around since 1892.
That sentiment is boosted by the convenience of being able to find a bottle or can of Coke almost anywhere you go.
“Convenience and accessibility heavily influence purchasing decisions for Gen Z,” the report notes.
One of the popular characteristics of PepsiCo’s 1960’s-era Gatorade is its availability in pod form, which has created an engaging experience different from simply opening a bottle.
In addition, multiple flavor options—including quirky ones like lime cucumber—allows Gen Z consumers to “customize their hydration experience without sacrificing taste,” the report states.
One of the factors in Oreo’s popularity is the way younger generations like to consume the classic cookies in cake, pancakes and deep-fried edibles.
On the other end of the spectrum, “Oreos remind Gen Z of how simple life used to be. Sit down, grab a glass, Oreos and milk and enjoy the classic milk and cookies dessert.”
The words “spicy” and “Cheetos” have become nearly synonymous as the brand continues to push the limits of fiery taste.
That’s an invitation to push things further and see who can handle the most heat beyond what’s on the snack itself.
According to dcdx, one way that Pepsi has remained relevant is by innovating iterations that Gen-Zers consider revolutionary—such as Pepsi Nitro, which was launched as the first nitrogen-infused cola.
“Taking a staple drink like Pepsi-Cola and giving it a new twist keeps Gen Z hooked on Pepsi.