If you want to capture Gen Z’s loyalty and succeed in the next generation of buyers, then this episode is a must-listen.
Topics On This Episode:
- Getting to know Gen Z consumers
- Understanding what’s important to them
- Connecting with Gen Z consumers
- Building a Gen Z audience
- Breaking through a crowded messaging landscape
- Storytelling and content development for Gen Z
- Validating what messaging is right
- Creating great experiences throughout the buyer journey
- Competing against iconic brands
Watch the Live Recording
Full Episode Transcripts
Tessa Burg: Hello and welcome to another episode of Leader Generation, brought to you by Mod Op. I’m your host, Tessa Berg and today I am joined by Liz Carter. She is the President and COO of Chomps. Our topic is: Targeting Gen Z, how to market and connect with that next big buying audience Liz, thank you so much for being our guest today.
Elizabeth Carter: Thanks, thanks for having me.
Tessa Burg: So, this topic has been flowing around in all different types of capacity. You know, what are the benefits? Why do we want to target Gen Z? How are their attitudes and values different than other generations? But before we jump in, I would love to learn a little bit more about your background and the brand Chomps. Can you tell us a little bit more?
Elizabeth Carter: I bring an extensive experience as a senior leader in the consumer packaged goods industry, from brands like 5-Hour Energy, Perfect Snacks, and currently as the President, COO at Chomps, as she mentioned. I experience a lot within the organization, supporting the organization with their mission, vision and purpose, setting strategy goals, developing policies and procedures and in addition to enhancing teams.
Tessa Burg: That is awesome. So, it from your role in the mission, the vision, the purpose of these other kind of what started as niche brands I mean 5-Hour Energy is very big now, and even Perfect Bar feels like, you know, it’s blown up. But tell us a little bit about Chomps. What was the purpose in the start and sort of the origin story of Chomps in a space that feels kind of crowded.
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, as the founder’s story is around, you know, they were looking for a high protein snack that was better for you and one that had a high protein option that was also healthy and delicious. So kind of hitting upon that flavor profile that consumers are looking for and but providing on the high protein satiating snack that can get ’em through a lot of our busy workdays, life in general.
Tessa Burg: Yes, no, I agree. I feel like when you hit that two o’clock hour, everyone’s looking for a better for you snack, just so you don’t drag through the rest of the day.
Elizabeth Carter: Well that’s why 5-Hour Energy had the 2:30 feeling. So it’s a real thing.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, yes, for sure. So when we talk about targeting Gen Z, I mean this is a population that’s just coming into the workforce. Why is it so important to start having that conversation with this young of a generation and especially in this category of better for you snacks?
Elizabeth Carter: Well, I think the biggest thing is if you just even look at the, you know, the Gen Z buying behavior, they’re more of an informed consumer. They actually do their research, they talk to their friends, they like to read the back of the packs and see what ingredients are in there. That’s why it’s very critical that your front of pack clearly lays out your attributes and the better for you and what you’re trying to, appealing to those consumers. Making sure the first and foremost, when they see that front of the pack, they feel informed, before they even turn it over and look at the ingredient deck.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I’ve noticed, and this is complete observation, but I have, you know, nephews that are in, nieces that are in this category and the other day I was in the car with my nephew and he asked me about my life, like how I was doing, what do I do at work? And I’m like, what? I’m like, when I was his age I didn’t really care that much about what adults were doing and I definitely did not look at the back of any labels. But it is not even that they’re skeptical, but they’re very conscientious.
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah.
Tessa Burg: And there seems to be a higher awareness that you know, with, if I put more good into my body, then I will feel healthier, and if I put and listen and put more good vibes out into the world, that that comes back and I think it’s a really good thing. And I feel like, you know, the more brands start to realize that this isn’t just a, I feel like every generation gets the entitled lazy label at some point, but you know that it’s a very conscientious type of audience. What are some of the other things that you’re doing in marketing and communication, to help Gen Z connect with this story, and the more conscientious side of the Chomps brand?
Elizabeth Carter: Well, I would say, you know, obviously you need to make sure that you have the right content to support your mission for the brand. But talking about the animal welfare, the sustainability, the regenerative efforts, the farming, source of where your product is coming from, I mean they want to be brought along the journey to feel like they’re part of the brand and not necessarily like just eat this and you don’t know anything about it. They want to know where it’s sourced from, they care about that and that goes back to being a conscientious consumer.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, and how aware are retailers, like the places where you’re selling your products, how aware are they of the Gen Z values and Gen Z shopping behavior?
Elizabeth Carter: I think some are very well aware and they have that category management and they have those insights and there’s some that might be less that rely on a brand to tell ’em the why and showing them the data and the consumer insights. So I think it’s based on the retailer. Some that I’ve seen through our team are highly engaged in the consumer and understand it and others are less. But that’s where a brand needs to be ready to be able to tell that story.
Tessa Burg: And for that brand storytelling, what are some of the important data points that you really point to? Not only just to say, “hey, we’re aligned with the people shopping at your retail location”, but also where you fall or where you should be in that retail location to get the most visibility, but also to be there for that consumer.
Elizabeth Carter: I think it goes back to kind of being where the consumer is and trying to tell them that story of where, obviously every single brand wants to be at that point of purchase at the check stand. So you have to really be able to demonstrate the reason for your brand to sit there, and you know some brands get the luxury of doing a test and being able to prove it that way. Others have to show it through other retail performance and how it’s performed. But you know, as your brand is looking for like Chomps, is a better for you snack, you wanna be where there’s like-minded, better for you snacks. In some retailer sets, it can be within for Chomps in particular, is the jerky meat sticks set, others it can be with better for you. And so making sure that you’re in the right set where your consumer is visiting. So looking at the basket build data and other items that are in the basket with you, based on your consumer data and being able to be where that is.
Tessa Burg: All right, so I imagine one of the challenges is ousting or at least trying to show that you deserve that test against some of the bigger iconic brands. Have you run into a challenge where the placement or the footprint you want or even the audience and the type of conversation you wanna have, is kind of there’s space being taken up by more well-known brands that we’re familiar with?
Elizabeth Carter: Correct, yeah, always. I mean, you’re always going to come up to that and it’s whoever has the best storytelling and data points to prove why they should take up that space, versus, you know, a bigger brand.
Tessa Burg: And what do you think is winning and storytelling today? Is it, you know, health facts and like alignment on what it can do for your body? Or is it, you know, more of like origin? Like where does Chomps position itself in terms of storytelling and content development?
Elizabeth Carter: Well, I mean obviously brands are different, but with Chomps it’s, you know, we have our targeted consumer as healthy achiever. So making sure that we know with that consumer, exactly what they’re looking for and then making sure you can tell the story around that. I mean, so you have to first know who your consumer is. If you don’t, then it’s gonna be tough for you to message. So once you have that, then you can make sure you have the proper messaging, not only on-pack but in your content out.
Tessa Burg: And how when you’re like digital marketing, which is an area you know, I’ve spent a lot of time in, you can constantly test the messaging, test the experiences and make adjustments. How does your on-pack messaging experience tie to the more digital space and in what ways are you trying to blend that, so that it is even as people evolve when you’re testing, you’re keeping that experience consistent?
Elizabeth Carter: Well I mean, I think it’s like, if you’re looking at influencers, you know, for instance if you got it on-pack and then you’re leveraging an influencer to market your product online on Instagram or TikTok, it’s making sure they have a similar mindset, and you know displaying content that’s meaningful to your consumer and their individuals that are tapping into them to kind of get guidance for what other brands they should be purchasing. So I think it’s making sure, that you have like-minded individuals, you know, and like-minded content both on-pack. So if you have an on-pack that has allergen friendly or you know anything like that, then making sure that in your messaging you’re talking about what does that mean, gluten free, you know what does that mean? Or anything as far as if we’re talking about grass-fed finished beef which is different than just grass-fed, we’re talking about grass-fed finished beef. We have to make sure that the consumer understands what that means. We gotta make sure how do we differentiate ourselves from brands that are just saying Grass-fed, versus Grass-fed and finished beef.
Tessa Burg: No, those are some important points and it is pretty natural for people to go online and search and want to validate that. What role, I mean as you know, almost all CPG brands are selling through retailers. What role do you feel that your website plays, versus the role of an influencer, and in a like non-owned social channel, as it relates to reaching your audience and driving sales?
Elizabeth Carter: Well, I think you said it, it’s like a validation tool. It’s for them to come in and double click and understand the why. I see the attributes, but what are they doing? So as far as like if we talk about how, you know, the Animal Welfare, that they’re able to go onto our website and understand what we’re doing, where we’re sourcing it from. So I feel like it’s a validation tool, but it also provides additional content in the better for you space, not just particularly for the brand.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, and Chomps has been very successful and it’s really hard in the snacking category especially, like I feel like when I go to the grocery store, there is a new snack being sampled every single weekend. And I think from this conversation one of your keys to success is really honing in on what’s important to the audience. Have you tested any other types of social channels to reach them and sort of break through the noise? Because I feel like website is a great validation place. I think using influencers is really important. But when I think about it’s such a crowded messaging landscape, what are some other ways that you are using digital tools or any tool at all to break through that noise, to get people just aware of Chomps?
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, well I mean there’s trial drivers like using Ibotta digital couponing. There’s different ways that you can do that, because you want to make sure that you can drive to the point of sale, take that, and you know, make it rich enough where it gets the consumer to actually go in and purchase, repeat, and that’s the key. So I think there’s ways that, you know, as a brand based on your life cycle, you have to shift. So I feel like brands are always going to be testing to learn. There’s always going to be new platforms coming on, but it’s kind of based on the life cycle and where you feel like once you test and learn and measure, do you accelerate in that platform? Do you test to learn in another platform? But then even things like popped up during Covid, Instacart, we saw a lot of success with Instacart at my previous brand and we kept accelerating it and see how high is high. We’re doing very similar here, and being able to leverage that. I think it’s just a lot of test and learn and just understanding how to measure it to make sure, you know you understand if it’s a feasible activation or a platform for you to be spending on.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, so one of the challenges that a lot of marketers especially CPG brands have, in regards to measurement is you’re doing a lot of different tests and learn and it can be hard to figure out, like it doesn’t all happen in isolation. How have you found it best or even measure or figure out like, yes I can give this amount of credit to this tool or I know in-store sales were driven or could be attributed back to things that might not be happening out in the store or even in physically?
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, I mean measurement tools are different across, but you know, if you’re looking at ones that are, you know, shopper marketing at the retail, I mean you can measure it through IRI and Nielsen in your data, to see if you saw velocity lift. So I think that’s the more true test at shelf. ‘Cause as we all say, “sales gets it on the shelf, marketing kind of takes it off the shelf”. So you know, as we’re looking at that and making sure that we’re at the point of where our consumer is, you know, the measurement tool like the ultimate measuring tool is seen at velocity. But a lot of times if you’re looking at a national campaign, I mean that’s tough to kind of hone in, where if you can do like a regional test, it’s a little bit easier for you to be able to look at the data and see if you saw a meaningful impact. It takes time as always because you can’t expect one week and see meaningful impacts. I mean, you’ve got to make sure that you have a good amount of time in order to measure it and then see the impact in the pull through data.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, that was exactly gonna be my next question. Like how long is long enough for a regional test to see impact?
Elizabeth Carter: I mean some people look at, I mean obviously everybody’s looking at data, you’re waiting for that next IRI refresh four weeks, so some people go look at it four weeks. It kind of just depends on, you know, how you’re wanna measure it, is a small lift after a four week test okay? Or and then continue it on and see, but you also wanna make sure that you give yourself enough time, because as we know, these things take time to get set up, it takes time to get ramped up. You could find yourself in the next year before you make a change. So, you know, four weeks I would say is reasonable, but like I said, it’s a brand dependent.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, so when we started this conversation, we were talking about Gen Z and the values. Can you tell me a little bit, ’cause you referenced throughout the importance of starting with and understanding your customer, in order to help sort of dictate, you know, how you present and retail and even how you get that product off the shelf and the way you market and validate consumer’s decision on your website. Can you tell me a little bit about how much time did you spend getting to know the customer and do you have segments that go through all generations?
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, I mean you obviously that’s kind of the start of your you know, brand, is you need to understand your consumer. So there’s a lot of, you know, companies out there that can help you sort through and ask the right questions. But it’s never once, you have to constantly refresh it, because it changes as generations change and consumer buying, you know, buying patterns change. And so it’s one of those things where you establish it, and you understand you put your marketing material, but it’s always something that you’re constantly refreshing and knowing your consumer better. It’s even a process we’re going through right now with Chomps, it’s understanding as we’re building our brand awareness, what other consumer you know, what other consumer might be interested in Chomps or how do we market to them?
Tessa Burg: Yeah, so when you find those sort of new consumer groups or even new proof points that you can start learning from, what mechanisms do you use today to sort of validate that quickly before going into something that bigger, like a more regional test?
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, a lot of your digital on your own website test it, you know, on TikTok, Instagram, some of those platforms that you can, it’s not as expensive as doing a national program. So it’s ways that you can quickly make those edits and changes that doesn’t cost a brand a ton to make the change.
Tessa Burg: I feel like these are tactics too that help more niche brands stay ahead of legacy brands and more iconic brands is that you are constantly refreshing your data, testing this messaging and then quickly getting out into market with the learnings and findings. A lot of things you cited were also educating the consumer on, does that education pull people from more traditional snacks to better for you snacks and then specifically Chomps?
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, I mean that’s obviously our goal, is to get people to understand why that better for you snack. But the consumer has to, that’s what they’re looking for and you have to tell ’em why your brand is one that can give them what they’re looking for. So I think ultimately that’s what consumers want. You wanna pull people into the better for you. And so that’s why people talk about share, share of your category and where are you pulling it from and understanding, you know, what brands are you pulling from in order to gain share. And so in a lot of categories there are gonna be brands, bigger brands in there that maybe don’t have as strong of the better few attributes as your products do, that you can kind of look at that and see and even take that to a buyer at a retail and see say, “here we’re pulling share, these consumers are looking for these better for you options and it’s showing in our share data”.
Tessa Burg: Does Chomps benefit from any type of trends or experiences out in the market? For example, weight loss, like, you know, I have been, you know, something comes out about the impact sugar has on your body. We see this content going viral, we see more people want better for you snacks specifically protein, because Chomps is lower in sugar.
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, I mean I think Whole30, the keto, keto friendly, like those trends, I think, you know what brands have to be aware of is not chasing the fad diets and looking for ones that had been sustained and ones that once again resonate with your consumer. So taking those back to your consumer, so I wouldn’t say like as far as diet education, I mean Whole30 and keto friendly if you look at on-pack with Chomps, those are two key ones that are on-pack and then gluten-free. So, you know, as those became more prevalent out there and consumers were talking about it more, brands can look to make sure, okay that’s resonating with our consumer, let’s make sure it’s a key attribute on-pack.” And then how are you messaging it to them in our content, whether it’s through your social platforms, your own website and then influencers.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, and I think something else that I’ve just observed is if you have a friend, whoever did Whole30 or keto, I mean it worked. They looked amazing.
Elizabeth Carter: Well and that’s the thing is, you’ve got to look at the trends that have sustained. You know, that it hasn’t come and gone. I mean even look at during, you know, Covid, what trends popped, a lot of those small immunity drinks really came to life during that period and they were around before, but you know afterwards you saw sets grow pretty dramatically. So, you know, there’s life events like Covid that’s happened and then some of the, you know keto and I would even say gluten-free is something I’m hearing way more even within my own family.
Tessa Burg: Yep, no, I agree. I feel like the more people become aware of how their body reacts, the stuff they’re putting in their mouth, they’re like, “oh, now I’m noticing that maybe I don’t digest gluten very well”.
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah.
Tessa Burg: I might not have celiac disease, but I just don’t like the way gluten makes me feel. That’s another observation I’ve made like that one, you know, it’s beyond being a trend now, people care, and they’re making their own personal decision on how much you know, they want to consume of that, even if they don’t have celiac.
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, and if you put it on-pack, it makes it easier for the consumer not have to search for it on back, if you put those key attributes on front. And that’s why it’s always that debate what goes on front, what goes on back and making sure there’s not a lot of noise, but it’s clear and intentional.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, when you do go on one of those diets, and I agree I don’t think Whole30 or keto is a fad, because it’s a healthier way to live. It doesn’t like tell you you’re gonna lose 10 pounds in a week, going shopping the first couple of times is challenging. So those on-pack signals not only set you apart, but to your point, it’s a better customer experience, because now they’re like, “okay so this is in it, I can get that”.
Elizabeth Carter: And that’s why it makes sure like a brand even, so in your situation, if you’re trying to find out, maybe you’re going to go follow an influencer who speaks a lot about Whole30 or has a lot of experience, because then they’re going to share out their favorite brands and that’s where it kind of ties back to, you know, going to look for those people that can advocate that are fully educated on it and can advocate not only that, but then making sure it shows up on your own landing page.
Tessa Burg: Yep, no, I love that. So we are just at time, but we covered a lot of landscapes, so I want to summarize some points for anyone, any other niche brand marketers, who might be looking at how do I increase my penetration with my audience or increase my share. I love, you know, starting with the customer and what’s important to them and make and going to experience next, you know, we talk about adding the on-pack messaging and how the website helps validate. You’re really just laying out that journey against what’s most important to your customer and helping them discover, learn, validate, consume in a way that works for that specific audience, with those values. Are there any other sort of points that you think are really important for CPG brands to understand today as we’re looking at a Gen Z audience that’s more conscientious and does care about what’s on-pack and does conduct this research before buying?
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah, I mean, just know that research can be expensive, but it can be cheap, I guarantee, you probably have several Gen Z employees right in your office. So even surveying your own people and just understanding what matters to them is important, because they’re many ambassadors for your brand.
Tessa Burg: Yeah and why is it important for any brand to start thinking about Gen Z today?
Elizabeth Carter: Well, I think it just goes back to the fact that they’re very knowledgeable, you know generation that is very, very knowledgeable on the platforms that brands are showing up on. So Instagram, TikTok, a couple one with Pinterest, I mean these are all ones, even LinkedIn, they are out there, they’re exploring, that’s their way of learning. I mean that even me growing up, I mean a lot of it was, you know, through word of mouth friends, but really going in the grocery store, trying stuff or my parents bringing it home. Even now as you know, with my own children, it’s like they feel better informed by me educating them how to look at packs, how to look at the back, look at sugar, look at added sugars and what’s the difference between that. So I think they like to educate and they want to make sure they spread it by telling their friends and sharing it on social platforms.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I feel like there’s never been a silver bullet in marketing and communication, but even more so now you need to know and be able to get your message out across many platforms, because the audience is using many platforms to consume and learn about products.
Elizabeth Carter: Yeah.
Tessa Burg: Well, thank you very much Liz for joining us today. If anyone listening wants to get in touch with you, where can they find you?
Elizabeth Carter: The easiest way is just to search me on LinkedIn and send me a message.
Tessa Burg: Fantastic, all right. And if you want to hear more episodes from “Leader Generation”, you can find us on LinkedIn, just search the Leader Generation Podcast or visit modop.com, MODOP.com. Have a great weekend Liz, and we will talk to you again soon.
President & Chief Operations Officer at Chomps
With a wealth of experience in the consumer-packaged goods industry, she specializes in food and beverage, as well as dietary supplements. As a results-oriented leader, Elizabeth excels at implementing both short-term and long-term strategies, setting goals, developing policies and procedures, improving team communication, and supporting the organization’s mission, vision, and purpose. She has worked with well-known brands such as Humm Kombucha, 5-hour ENERGY, Petite Pot, and Perfect Snacks.