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Generation Alpha emerges as a sophisticated and desirable target market

An article first published in Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) highlights a promising demographic for supplement brands: Generation Alpha.

Robyn Lawrence

December 7, 2023

8 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Generation Alpha will outnumber Baby Boomers within a few years.
  • Alphas spend a lot of time hanging out in "metaverses" and place great trust in technologies like AI.
  • Alphas also have a more sophisticated notion of health than their predecessors.

They started coming into the world a few years after the iPhone rocked previous generations’ worlds, born to “you do you” millennial parents who are all about equity and inclusion, into a climate on the verge of collapse. At school, they practiced active shooter drills until they were sent home for months, even years, when COVID hit. Their parents encourage them to explore and worry about their mental health.

Born between 2010 and 2025 and known—for now—as Generation Alpha, this up-and-coming cohort will outnumber baby boomers by 2025 and already has unprecedented sway over family purchasing decisions. They’re not easily fooled, and they expect their needs to be met with data-driven precision. If you plan to market to this cohort, the time to start is now—and the old rules don’t apply.

“This is a very sophisticated consumer, and we’re already seeing how much influence they have on purchasing decisions,” says Marie Stafford, global director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “As a consequence, industries are starting to target them a lot earlier.”

Alphas are more heavily involved in household purchasing decisions than any previous generation, especially when it comes to food, global research company Morning Consult reports in “A Brand’s Guide to Gen Alpha.” They’ll have fully developed brand preferences by the time they’re financially independent, Morning Consult predicts, which may be why the beauty industry is already targeting them with perfume and skin care products.

Under glass

It’s been suggested that, instead of Alpha, this generation should be called Generation Glass for the digital screens that are their constant appendages. Insider Intelligence estimates the 8.8 million Gen Alpha smartphone users in 2023 will grow to more than 10 million by 2026. Their favorite brands are YouTube and Netflix. Technology is the air these children breathe, the water they swim in, the reality they live—and the line between virtual and real is blurred at best. Millennials and Gen-Z grew up with the internet, but the Alphas were raised by smartphones.

“Gen Alpha is the first generation to grow up entirely in the digital age,” says Shahab Elmi, founder and CEO of Cymbiotika. “They are true digital natives.”

Morning Consult found that 54% of Alphas have their own devices and spend a significant portion of every day streaming, gaming and hanging out in various metaverses. “This is the generation that will really embrace the Metaverse,” Stafford says. “It’s all reality as far as they’re concerned.”

More than a quarter of Alphas live in homes with VR headsets, more than half have their own tablets and 84% live in households with video game consoles. They went to school and watched their parents do their jobs on Zoom and Teams during the lockdowns, when their own online friendships blossomed. Remote friends are a key part of their social life; 43% regularly play games online, and nearly a quarter interact with friends they’ve never met in person.

Alphas trust technology with the blind faith of a generation that has never known the world to be any other way, and that conviction fuels their empowerment. “Their sense is that as long as they have the technology, they can figure anything out,” says Kathy Sheehan, senior vice ­president and global director of Cassandra, a cultural strategy and insights organization that studies youth markets. “If they don’t understand something, they can watch a YouTube video. They can always find the answer if they have the tools.”

According to Cassandra’s “Gen Alpha: Generation Infinite” report, well more than half of 7- to 12-year-olds are on social media, namely YouTube and TikTok, where Alphas not only get all their news and information but also learn about products and brands from haul and unboxing videos and kidfluencers like Ryan of Ryan’s World, who has nearly 36 million subscribers and is one of the top 10 most-subscribed YouTube channels in the U.S.

“Their world is so much bigger than the four walls around them or the place that they go to school or the communities they live in,” says Niki Kennedy, director of insights and content for Glanbia Nutritionals. “They’re just so much more aware of everything outside their sphere.”

As a result, Sheehan said, “Generation Alpha is the most socially aware generation we’ve studied—and they’re growing up, unfortunately, in a really unsettling time.”

Tracked and trusting

Following their millennial parents’ lead, Alphas place enormous trust in emerging technologies like AI to track and support their health and wellness. IEEE, a professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity, surveyed millennial parents in the U.S., U.K., India, China and Brazil in 2019 and found that 49% strongly preferred and 40% somewhat preferred VR pain therapy to medication for their Alpha kids. More than 80% said they felt at least somewhat comfortable using AI to address concerns about their children’s health.

Alphas already rely on apps to count their steps, track their sleep quality and stress levels, even remind them to breathe. As they mature, they’ll be much more likely to turn to mental health apps and teletherapy rather than visit a therapist when they’re feeling mentally or emotionally unstable. They think nothing of releasing their personal health information to the cloud, but they expect hyper-personalized care in return.

“They’ll probably be the most tracked generation, and they’ll expect all of that data to understand them,” Stafford says. “They will be the generation that expects the world to just adapt around them because it knows everything about them. They’ll expect brands to anticipate their needs and create seamless experiences, to know what they want before they have to say it.”

Alphas have grown up building their own spaces in Roblox and creating customized avatars and online games, says Kennedy. “Everything has been personalized for them,” she says, “including their online experiences.”

A generation that plays Minecraft in a metaverse rather than Candyland around a card table naturally expects gamified personalization in everything they do. Setting nutrition and exercise goals, tracking the results, and competing with themselves to keep aiming higher can be as much fun to them as hopping on the battle bus for a Fortnite Battle Royale.

Kennedy says supplement companies looking to get on these kids’ radar will need to appeal to their gaming instincts with things like quizzes that identify health goals for individualized nutrition regimens. “The new frontier of brand loyalty will be getting them invested.”

Brands should never underestimate the breadth of this generation’s knowledge, intelligence and sophistication, Stafford adds. “Brands have the opportunity to be a trusted source of truth and information, but Gen Alphas will see through anything that’s not genuine. They also expect to be able to follow your brand seamlessly across different realities because the line between physical and virtual doesn’t exist for them.”

Whole health

With endless sources of AI-fueled information at their fingertips, Alphas also have a more sophisticated notion of health than their predecessors, especially the oldest ones. For Alphas, Stafford says, “health is a lifestyle, not something you dip in and out of when you’re unwell.”

Alphas expect technology-driven, holistic, sustainable health and wellness solutions that can be adapted to their unique needs, Elmi says. “They will also place a strong emphasis on preventive health measures, early intervention and overall well-being.”

Their foodie parents are teaching them that chemical additives and gluten are bad, plant-based and organic are good—but the Glass Generation won’t be as hesitant as Mom and Dad about tech-forward solutions, like genetic modification, precision fermentation and cultivated meat, especially if those technologies could solve global problems like climate heating and hunger.

Alphas’ understanding of health is broad-minded and inclusive—much like them—and they see mental and emotional health as crucial to overall well-being. Bombarded with news of random violence, war and lingering fallout from the pandemic since they first picked up smartphones and tablets—about the same time they learned to talk—they’re well aware of all the stressors that tear at their fragile resilience. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of medical experts, now recommends anxiety screening for children starting at age 8.

Cassandra found that 59% of Alphas see mental health as a big issue, and 62% wish their schools would focus more on mental health education instead of physical education. “The whole mental health conversation is so normalized with this generation,” Sheehan says. “We started seeing that with Gen Z, and then the pandemic accelerated it. There’s far less stigma around mental health.”

According to a Pew Research Center study, 40% of parents in the U.S. are extremely or very worried about their children’s mental health, which they see as a more important concern than bullying, kidnapping, or drugs and alcohol. Morning Consult found that 37% of Alphas’ parents believe their children’s mental health is worse than theirs was at their age—the only area where they don’t see their kids as better off—and a Harris Poll on behalf of the On Our Sleeves Movement for Children’s Mental Health found that half of parents believe social media use has damaged their kids’ mental health.

The market is responding with things like tactile stress toys for “fidget therapy,” mindful breathing straws and even a neurodiverse line of LEGO characters. “Anything around calming, stress relief, and maximizing and optimizing sleep is going to be really interesting territory for this group,” Stafford says. Mood tracking and management are also key trends, “and there will be an increasing expectation that you can actually choose mood as a filter, using diet and supplements.”

Editor's note: This article was first published in the "Emerging Markets" issue of Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).

About the Author(s)

Robyn Lawrence

Senior editor, NBJ

The author of four books, Robyn Lawrence has written in the natural lifestyle, food and wellness space since she helped launch Natural Home magazine in 1999. She was Natural Home’s editor-in-chief for 11 years and has been an editor for several national magazines, including Mother Earth News and Herb Companion. As senior editor for NBJ, she writes articles and contributes to report content. 

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