Gen Z in Product Manufacturing and Cleaning

PLZ breaks down what it takes to meet demand to a Gen Z consumer.

Cans going through assembly line.
Cans going through assembly line.

Since 1947, PLZ has specialized in the development, manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of a comprehensive line of contract fill, branded and private-label products. These products include aerosol and liquid products for household, food service, automotive, industrial, and personal care. Commitments to customer partnerships, particularly quick-to-market products and solutions, are a driving force for the Illinois manufacturer. But as the market evolves and expands, PLZ has found an emerging new trend.

PLZ has identified Gen Z as some of the most conscious consumers, becoming increasingly intentional about the products they use and the impact these products have on their personal well-being, as well as the environment. With Gen Z spending on the rise each year, PLZ looks to create leverage, insighting what Gen Z wants brought to the table from a manufacturing perspective.

Kathy Elkey is the president of cleaning and food solutions at PLZ. Elkey has worked in the industry for more than25 years and has seen consumer trends rise and fall time after time, but she has a keen interest in the drivers behind the accelerating Gen Z market.

Sprayway cleaners.Sprayway cleaners.PLZ

Product transparency and Ethics

Gen Z wants cleaning solutions that are made with a reduced carbon footprint, better for both their health, and the environment. Recognizing this, PLZ formed its first dedicated, cross-functional environmental, social, and governance (ESG) committee, and plans to  maintain a strategy to improve in a multitude of sustainable capacities.

Elkey explains, “Our ESG pushes the goal to be good stewards towards our environment with our customers and consumers. Our ESG revolves around our packaging, energy and water usage, recycling, and how we move forward in the market positively. We are one of the few who take actions further than speaking about them, and we are getting good traction as it sets us apart in specialty chemical manufacturing.”

Gen Z tends to gravitate towards products that are capable of cleaning multiple surfaces and take up minimal space. Finding concentrated formulations that are effective for multiple purposes and can be produced in compact packaging is key for reaching this audience directly.

According to Elkey, Gen Z is looking for convenience and for a product with multiple uses. 

“As we stand by the production of a multi-use product, we have ventured into understanding what format the consumer has grown to appreciate," Elkey says. “Consumers like variety, different uses for different things, but effectiveness nonetheless, making sure the product does what it is supposed to.”

Aesthetic Packaging

Gen Z is also drawn to clean, minimalist designs , but they add additional challenges for packaging, like finding solutions that are appealing, effective, and environmentally conscious, without losing the brand’s identity.

“Consumers need things that fit their lives, and fit their hands,” Elkey says. “It’s a drive between the usage and convenience, but also comfort. Between nozzle sizes and buttons for switching modes, the design becomes vital to include these various attributes. From a health and safety perspective, from weight, to mobility, to workplace situation, ease of access and convenience are key.”

What’s Next

While Gen Z is the current focus, every generation has influenced new product development. So, what can we expect from Gen Alpha (people born in the early 2010s)?

“Every new generation has their own impetus for growth,” Elkey says.“It’s all about what drives them as a generation. You can pass on trends from generations, but people, and especially Gen Z, are becoming extremely independent. Doing their own research to meet their own need is a new threshold of expectation that is important for us to get in front of as a manufacturer to meet that need.”

Still, as Elkey adds, every generation in history looks for value. “Everyone, regardless of generation, is looking for a value. A value for your money, time, or experience. If we as a manufacturer can provide to meet these values, then we are succeeding where it matters most. Value comes in many different ways to many different consumers, but one value to another is not to be overlooked.”

PLZ will be unveiling its third annual ESG report later this summer. The new report will update company changes in people development, product stewardship, business values and principles, and sustainable operations. The company has a five-year roadmap that serves as a guide for goal implementation and mechanisms for measurements to demonstrate long term performance.

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