Recent Mintel research has given us some seriously intriguing insights into the consumer habits of the so-called ‘i-Generation’, or 16-20 YOs. Brands can sometimes turn a blind eye to this demographic, but with huge influence on their parent’s spending behaviours and their changing attitudes set to shape the marketplace of tomorrow, it’s time we got savvy to what teens are up to.

So what have we learned about tomorrow’s consumers?

Older generations have been quick to criticise the i-Generation for their Puritanical nature. They drink less, take fewer drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than their elders. 36% of the ‘Post-Rock ‘n’ Roll’ kids say that watching their parents and grandparent’s habits have inspired them to eat and drink healthier.

The youth of today also seem to be increasingly insular; they aren’t working as much as their elders, fewer have driving licences, they spend more time alone and are interacting less with friends and loved ones.

Sadly 16-20YOs are feeling strained, with 33% feeling anxious or stressed every day, compared to 15% of all adults. They tend to live largely sedentary lives and only 21% feel mentally stimulated every day.

In terms of morality, teens are the driving force for a new wave of ethics that isn’t as prevalent with older generations. A huge number of UK teens (63%) are concerned about how food companies treat animals and vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise. Aside from animal welfare, they are expressing concern about questionable environmental practices, like plastic use and palm oil production.

In a post-Weinstein #MeToo era, we’re seeing a shift in feminism. Younger generations are less open to inequality and simply won’t stand for sexist messaging from brands or companies. As of April 2018, it’s the law in the UK to publish gender pay discrepancies. With this level of visibility, in the future it will be impossible to sweep inequality under the rug.

How can brands appeal to the i-generation?

Changing habits and attitudes mean the market must adapt to survive.

Coming to age in the era of fake news, this is the generation that cannot be fooled. Brands must adopt complete transparency to survive. Young consumers are more likely to trust a food or drink product if the packaging explains where the ingredients are sourced from and tend to respond well to respectful brands, that trust them to make their own informed decision.

We’re already seeing brands making changes across the board to assuage this new customer, promising to go plastic-free, reducing packaging and removing unethical ingredients. We’ll continue to see ethical brands increasing their market presence, as veganism grows, so too will vegan brands and entrepreneurs.

There’s been a shift in advertising too, with a more diverse and inclusive narrative. Rimmel London has recruited its first male brand ambassador, 17-year-old, Lewys Ball, for example.

With fewer drinkers, non-alcoholic beers, spirits and soft drinks are experiencing a boom and will continue to grow. In the US, mocktails are having a moment. So much so, ‘Dry January’ has been rebranded as mocktail month.

With a focus on wellbeing, there’s also a demand for functional food and drink. Teens are keen to eat and drink products which make them feel better, mood-boosting snacks and drinks or something with tangible benefits – like skin enhancing soft drinks.

Their awareness of ethical and ecological issues will make this the most informed and demanding consumer group yet. Brands will not only survive but thrive if they adapt to suit their ethics and needs.