Can You Be in Favor of Both Sustainable Foods and Biotechnology? Millennials Say You Can

Health and nutrition related information are two important topics for US consumers, but recently there has been an increasing interest in food production and sustainability. This year, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently conducted its biannual Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology Survey to gauge American consumers’ knowledge, opinions, perceptions, and behaviors in the context of plant and animal biotechnology, food production, and sustainability. For the first time, the Survey looked at how Millennials’ opinions on these issues compared to other age groups. Many interesting findings indicate opportunities to communicate with this increasingly influential group:

  1. Millennials are more aware of sustainability and are willing to pay more for sustainable foods.

    Awareness of sustainability in food production is a topic about which many Americans are familiar, with 57 percent acknowledging that they have heard or read about topics related to food sustainability. However, what was even more interesting is that Millennials, including people aged 18-34, ranked as the age group with the highest awareness of sustainability and willingness to pay more for sustainable foods. More than three-quarters of Millennials also say it is important that the foods they purchase or consume are produced in a sustainable way. As a result, nearly two-fifths of this group (43 percent) say they are willing to pay more for “sustainable” foods and beverages, and nearly three in ten Millennials (29 percent) say they have increased their purchasing of sustainable food and beverage products in the past year.
     

  2. Millennials are also more favorable toward food biotechnology than other age groups. 

    Nearly 40 percent of Millennials are favorable toward food biotechnology, significantly greater than the rest of the population. Given the importance they place on, and willingness to pay more for sustainable foods and beverages, it would be understandable that Millennials would be supportive of food biotechnology. Interestingly, according to the 2014 Pew Research Survey, Millennials are the least common demographic to describe themselves as “environmentalists.”
     

  3. Millennials don’t trust conventional sources for information on food and health issues.

    IFIC’s consumer research with Millennials has found this group to have low trust in “authority” figures, making communications more challenging. Being aware of Millennials’ preferred communication sources (e.g. family and friends) and formats (e.g. social media) will help with developing tools that meet their needs and provide the science and facts on food biotechnology and sustainability.

The majority of Americans agree that food biotechnology can play a role in their most important sustainability factors, including conserving the natural habitat, ensuring an affordable food supply, and ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing global population. However, “lack of information” and “not understanding the benefits” are the most common reasons consumers cite for not being favorable toward practices such as animal biotechnology, making it important to communicate about these issues regularly and in the context of health and environmental benefits to raise awareness and understanding.

For more information and resources on this Survey, such as summaries, slides, and infographics, please visit the 2014 IFIC “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” Survey on FoodInsight.org. 

For more information on food biotechnology, visit:

IFIC Foundation Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding