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Confectionary cravings: how Oreo, Doritos and Hershey’s are winning Gen Z

person throwing five Oreo cookies in the air

The results are in! Our latest Youth Brand Affinity Tracker results have crowned Gen Zs’ winners in the food and drink sector. Hint: there’s a new brand taking the top spot this quarter. 

Food and drink was one sector that saw the most disruption in our Youth Brand Affinity ranking this quarter. For the first time, Oreo takes the lead in our top 10, overtaking both Doritos and Coca-Cola. Hershey’s also moved up the ranks, overtaking Coca-Cola. Clearly, Gen Z’s cravings for sweet treats have been strong this quarter, which was no doubt heightened by the Easter vacation – a crucial time in the retail calendar for brands like Hershey. So, let’s explore how the top three food and drink brands have achieved success with Gen Z students this quarter.


Climbing two spots from last quarter, and taking the number one spot for the first time is Oreo – a firm favorite in the cookie aisle, and seemingly a go-to snack food for 16-24-year-olds. The brand’s success with Gen Z is partly down to its fire social media content, which is regularly updated to include information on new launches, recipe ideas, partnerships, and more. Needless to say, the Oreo Instagram account makes us all feel hungry.

The Oreo brand is known for its variety of flavors. Over the last couple months they have released limited edition packs, including the popular Strawberry Frosted donut, S’mores and NBA Dynasty Oreos. Oreo has also secured partnerships with influencers and celebrities to create new flavors – a tactical move for any brand wanting to win Gen Z consumers. Their partnership with Lady Gaga, which saw the creation of pink Oreos encased in – you guessed it – pink packaging, went down a storm with young fans. The brand has managed to maintain a solid 58% in brand advocacy this quarter thanks to these efforts.


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A post shared by OREO (@oreo)

Oreo regularly interacts with other brands and movements to create a community feel, and assert themselves as part of the conversation rather than simply broadcasting their own marketing messages. Recent partnerships that have helped engage young consumers across their social channels, include NBA and Krispy Kreme. Oreo are also getting involved in the conversation for Pride Month by partnering with PFLAG National – which was the first organization created to support those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Making a statement is one way the brand has managed to achieve a huge 93% brand visibility with Gen Zs this quarter.


Doritos may have slipped to second place this quarter, but it does outperform Oreo on one important metric: brand engagement, which stands at an impressive 57% this quarter.

How? Doritos has a clearly defined brand personality that resonates with the Gen Z audience. It is the ultimate party chip – no social event is complete without Doritos chips and salsa. For those looking to combine party vibes with a spicy risk factor, Doritos Roulette is the perfect snack food for any gathering. This fan favorite was recently brought back to market. The pack contains a variety of chips, some of which are spicier than others, making for a fun game to play with friends now that in-person socializing is back on the cards.

To get Gen Zs heavily involved in the launch, Doritos has turned to the ultimate Gen Z community – TikTok. The Doritos TikTok roulette challenge asks customers to buy a bag of Doritos Roulette and grab a partner. On video, players have to take turns eating a Dorito to see who gets the hot chip first.


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A post shared by Doritos ® (@doritos)

The brand have also teamed up with Cheetos for the #FlaminHotFaceoff which gives fans a chance to win Doritos merch. Players must pick a side and follow that account on Instagram to be in with a chance of winning a selection of Flamin Hot themed fashion items – recent prize additions include joggers, sliders and a snapback. It’s no wonder the brand’s engagement was the highest on record this quarter – after all, Gen Zs love a freebie!


Research by the National Confectioners Association found that demand for comfort food, especially chocolate, increased during the pandemic, which brands like Hershey’s have benefitted from. Hershey’s is also one of the food brands with the largest and most engaged social media following. They’ve utilized Pinterest, an underrated platform for reaching Gen Z, to tap into trends around Easter crafts and recipes.

Plus, the brand has been proactive in getting involved in conversations that Gen Zs care about. To celebrate gender equality and events like Mother’s Day, Hershey’s cleverly adapted the design of their packaging to highlight the word ‘she’, combined with the hashtag #celebarteSHE. 77% of Gen Z students have taken action for a cause they believe in, and Hershey’s are doing their bit to keep up the conversation. This has no doubt contributed to the brand’s increase in purchase intent, which has risen to 48% from 45% last quarter.

Want to see how Gen Zs perceive brands in your sector? Check out our latest Youth Brand Affinity Tracker.

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