The Zero Consumer

The focus for brands over the past number of years, has been on the Millennial and Generation Z communities. Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, and Generation Z was born between the mid to late-1990’s and 2010. In 2021, these two consumer groups accounted for over 38% of the Canadian population (M:21%, Gen Z: 17.6%) [1]. Both have had a strong influence on the food sector, including but not limited to:

  1. Food transparency.
  2. Emergence of the Vegan and Vegetarian consumer.
  3. Evolution of the organic sector.

With the emergence of the plant-based movement, we were introduced to the flexitarian consumer whose diet includes a high proportion of plant-based foods while still eating small amounts of meat and other animal products. In 2022, 47% of Americans identified themselves as such.[2]  Yet, there is a new consumer brands must now relate to – the Zero Consumer!

The Zero Consumer, Food Distribution Guy, Toronto, ON

Who is the Zero Consumer?

The majority of zero consumers seem to be Gen Z and Millennials. I would suggest based on their shared characteristics; that they represent the younger generations of both groups. They are omni-channel shoppers (consumers who use online and in-store shopping for groceries).

They share the following characteristics:

  1. Influenced by social media, celebrities, and content.
  2. Move through different channels to make a purchase.
  3. They try to save money or are willing to spend more for what they want (i.e., clothing, travel, restaurants).
  4. They are not brand loyal.
  5. They are turning to brands that offer sustainable, yet affordable products.[3]

What Makes the Zero Consumer Different?

The following 4 characteristics set zero consumers apart from the Consumers of the past:[4]

  1. Zero Boundaries: They demand the physical experience – they want retailers’ physical and digital offerings to be consistent and seamless.
  2. Zero Midrange: They scrimp and splurge. This scrimp-and-splurge behavior puts pressure on mid-priced brands as consumers flock to either cheaper or more premium brands.
  3. Zero Loyalty: If your brand is out of stock, many will try new brands.
  4. Net Zero: They care about transparency, health, and sustainability.
  5. Zero Patience: They have no patience. They will not wait. If you cannot deliver at their speed, they will find another company that will.

Why Does the Zero Consumer Matter to Smaller Brands?

In the United States, the combined purchasing power of Millennials and Gen Z is estimated at $165B,[5] and that is before you factor in the influence that Gen Z members have on their Generation X parents. They have grown up tech-savvy, living through the evolution of life-changing innovation. The Zero Consumer is part of this purchasing power. The majority of them do not trust large corporations, only 42% of Gen Z and 50%      of Millennials trust large corporations,[6] and 90% of this group are making an effort to reduce their impact on the environment.[7]

Food Distribution Guy’s 3 Brand Strategies – Sales Perspective

  1. Zero consumers are omni-channel shoppers. Brands require a multi-channel strategy, including retailers’ online platform, and Amazon.
  2. Zero consumers are inclined to scrimp, especially on food. Brands require an extremely competitive retail, coupled with consistently high-quality products.
  3. Zero consumers care about sustainability and personalization. Brands need to earn their trust and demonstrate they care about people and the planet. Personalized messaging through social media, on-line content, and an in-store experience are the keys to success.


[1] A Brief Portrait of Canada’s Aging Population,

[2] Flexitarianism Going Mainstream,, June 2022

[3] Zero Consumers: What They Want and Why It Matters,, October 2023

[4] Zero Consumers: What They Want and Why It Matters,, October 2023

[5] The Purchasing Power of Millennials and Generation Z,,

[6] Gen Z Doesn’t Trust Big Business,, November 2021

[7] Striving for Balance, Advocating for Change,, 2022