Food is the most basic of human needs, and for generations, farmers have filled that need for nourishment. Food options have even become exponentially more abundant as farms have become more productive and connected.

With more to select from, many consumers have been afforded the choice to demand more of their meals than just nutrition. These days, food decisions are not as simple as they once were, and to remain top of mind when shoppers are filling up their grocery carts, food producers must recognize those needs.

“Gen Z is hiring food to do different jobs for them than just sustenance,” described Roxi Beck from The Center for Food Integrity. She explained that this newest group of consumers is also considering how their food impacts the planet, makes them feel, affects their future health, and is produced. Generation Z (currently aged 11 to 26) wants experiences that make them feel like they have a seat at the table, and that includes knowing what’s happening with their food.

During the Animal Agriculture Alliance Summit, Aimpoint Research’s Danielle Cummins pointed out that two of the main trends upcoming consumers will take advantage of are food companies’ commitments to social and environmental changes and food personalization. The latter is based in the idea that food serves as medicine and can play a role in reducing chronic disease, Cummins explained.

It also highlights the fact that even with additional influences, nutrition matters to consumers. Cummins noted that these shoppers are looking for food that is healthy and fresh while making them feel good about the world. That means fewer preservatives and additives, but also a high priority on protein, which is good news for animal proteins like dairy.

Making the decision

If this is the information consumers are increasingly looking for from their food, they have to know where to find it. Farmers, food processors, and food distributors must be part of that conversation to provide the most accurate picture.

Only about a quarter of consumers strongly trust information about their food system, shared Cassidy Johnston, a first-generation Colorado rancher who interacts with consumers online every day. Cummins stated that nutrition labels are generally the most trusted factor when making food purchases, but those can also become complex or misleading. Family and friends as well as online reviews are the next leading sources of trusted information. That’s where the food community has an opportunity.

Everyone takes a different approach and should share what they are comfortable with, but Emily DeSousa’s advice is that you cannot overshare with young consumers. She works with Canadian seafood companies to create educational social media content and has seen that people are truly interested in the science of their food and understanding how it ties into their values. She reminded, though, that they don’t want to be spoken down to or talked at.

Johnston agreed, saying that a good place to start is by relating to your audience as more than a farmer. Communicate as a parent, as a community member, or simply as a person. That helps build trust so that you can become a reliable source of information for them on the industry that you are an expert in. With that connection, consumers can feel confident in all of the areas they are evaluating when making their food decisions.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
May 15, 2023

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