Eat, play, love: How Gen Z is shaping Korea’s grocery retailers

While the size of Generation Z in Korea is lower than the Asian average, by 2025, people born between 1997 and 2010 will constitute about 10 percent of Korea’s population and exercise significant influence in the market. These digital natives were born and raised surrounded by the Internet, currently average more than five hours daily on a mobile device, and—having entered adulthood during a global pandemic—are leading the acceleration of consumers toward e-commerce, especially in the grocery sector.

Eat: Searching for convenience

Gen Z’s adoption of online food purchasing has long-term implications for grocery retailers. First, Gen Z’s critical buying factor is convenience: 74 percent of respondents to our Korean Grocery Shoppers survey cited “going to a store where you can buy everything you need under one roof” as the most important factor in their decision making, followed by 60 percent who cited “most conveniently located stores” as an important factor.1 Second, they are generally bigger consumers of out-of-home food. Especially when compared with baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—Gen Z respondents express a higher-than-average interest in using prepackaged, partially cooked fresh meals; ordering food via delivery; or eating in a restaurant.

Gen Z’s adoption of online food purchasing has long-term implications for grocery retailers.

Play: Experimental eating

Korea’s Gen Z population is more likely than other generations to experiment with new foods and recipes, including exploring imported foods. Their historic love of premium goods is well known, and Gen Z now appears to be moving toward premium dining and grocery. They are looking for exotic spices such as basil and dill, premium meal kits developed in collaboration with fine-dining restaurants, and trendy liquors such as natural wine. For example, premium grocery sales at Lotte Department Store jumped 50 percent in 2021 among consumers in their 20s and 30s.2 And when international travel was put on hold and house parties replaced dining out, Gen Z began considering food as a lifestyle experience to be showcased on social media.

Love: Natural, environmentally friendly food

Korea’s Gen Z consumers prioritize food that’s ethically and sustainably sourced (exhibit). In grocery, the generation generally looks for products that are animal welfare friendly and do not contain artificial ingredients. They oppose unhygienic and cruel animal livestock breeding environments and are starting to link their consumption to their areas of interest. Interestingly, they don’t seem to be the biggest followers of dietary trends (such as veganism or vegetarianism) and healthy-eating diets (such as those focused on low sugar or reduced calories).

Korea’s Gen Z consumers prioritize ethical, sustainably sourced food.
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