Snacks & Candy

Gen Z Favor Sweets, Millennials Prefer Salty Snacks, Study Finds

Youth Snacking Report uncovers data about price, ingredient and other purchasing influencers
Gen Z vs. Millennials Youth Snacking Trends Report
Photograph courtesy of Knit

Consumers choose snacks based on flavors, ingredients, packaging and more, according to the Gen Z vs. Millennials Youth Snacking Trends Report by Knit, a research company based in Austin, Texas.

Millennials, according to Knit, were born between 1981 and 1996. Anyone born after 1997 is a member of the most ethnically diverse, first digitally native generation in the world, it said. The research company also classifies Gen Z as social and environmental idealists and glued to their screens with a collective estimated buying power of $150 billion (and counting).

Read on to find out the differing snacking trends between the two generations.

Snacking Frequency

Of the survey’s respondents, 76.2% said they snack two to three times a day. Millennials lean into snacking behavior more, with 18.2% snacking 4-5 times per day (vs. 7.1% of Gen Z). A subset of the Gen Z population is a more likely to limit their snacking though, with 27.9% only snacking once per day (vs. 19.9% of millennials).

Snack Preferences

While Gen Z prefers sweets, millennials lean toward salty snacks, according to the survey. Gen Z also showed a slightly higher preference for savory and spicy snacks, at 57.1% and 47.9% respectively (vs. 47.7% and 42% for millennials).

When it comes to categories, chips were the most selected snack preference for both age groups. Cookies, chocolates, then gummies were the next most popular categories for Gen Z. Among millennials, the next two most-chosen categories were crackers and snack mixes.


For both Gen Z and millennials, snacking occurred the most during passive activities—watching television and when they are bored at home. More than 56% of millennials snack while watching television, followed by 50% of Gen Z.

The go-to snacks for Gen Z by occasion are as follows:

  • Bored at home: cheese and crackers
  • Hanging with friends: gummies
  • Watching TV: gummies, chips and cookies
  • Post workout: protein bars and fruit

For millennials, the go-to snacks by occasion are as follows:

  • Bored at home: cookies and crackers
  • Hanging with friends: chips, cookies and cheese
  • On the go: granola bars and snack mixes
  • Watching TV: chips and chocolate
  • Post workout: protein bars


The rise of gluten-free and plant-based diets have led to an increase in both parents and younger consumers paying closer attention to the labels of the items that they’re putting into their bodies, according to Knit.

For Gen Z and millennials, ingredients seem to have the most influence when it comes to deciding which snack to eat, but calorie count and macro count are not far behind.



Across both millennials and Gen Z, the main factor that influence them in trying a new snack is the price. Before shelling out a portion of their weekly snacking spend, they want to make sure the risky purchases leave room for their staples, according to Knit.

Following price, Gen Z leans into brand recognition as a heavy influence in trying new snacks, with 52.4% ranking brand first or second vs. 48.4% of millennials.


Shopping for Snacks

Though the top method for discovering new items for both Gen Z and millennials is seeing something new in an aisle (46.2% and 58.2% respectively), Gen Z’s price sensitivity holds true as an influence yet again. Gen Zers are more likely to be influenced to try new snacks by in store coupons than millennials—12.8% vs. 5.5%.

In-store ads have a slightly larger influence on Gen Z, who try new items at a rate of 7.7% vs. 3.6% of millennials.


Below is a breakdown of Gen Z’s favorite snack and candy brands.

candychipsother snacks

Knit is a consumer insights company that helps brands understand the next generation of consumers by providing quantitative and qualitative data from Gen Z and millennials.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Looking Up: Limited-Time Offers on the Rise

These deals continue to grow in all mealparts, Technomic reports show

Company News

Knowing Growing: QuikTrip Flexes in 2023

C-store chain celebrates 1,000th opening, opens 13th medical clinic, more


Get Creative in Foodservice to Thrive in 2024, Technomic Says

Report: Operators must lean into tech, menu and service innovation, take advantage of existing ingredients and resources


More from our partners