Technology is touching every aspect of our lives, and more and more, this includes the food we eat. Not surprisingly, older generations are wary of developments in food science, but Gen Z—the newest generation of food consumers with purchasing power—is more open to food technology than their predecessors, new research from comms giant Ketchum reveals. And the ways that food makers communicate about these new technologies will be key to helping consumers become aware of the right combination of scientifically supported facts and benefits.
According to the firm’s newly released Food Tech Consumer Perceptionstudy, Gen Z respondents indicated they are more likely to try a food grown with technology (77 percent) and are more comfortable overall with the use of technology to grow food (71 percent) than are millennials (67 percent likely to try/56 percent comfortable), Gen X (58 percent/51 percent) and Baby Boomers (58 percent /58 percent).
Higher percentages of Gen Z and millennials qualified as Food eVangelists, a type of influencer first identified by Ketchum in 2013. More than a quarter of Gen Z (27 percent) and millennials (29 percent) fit the profile of this small but globally powerful group who want to impact the way food is raised, packaged and sold, while just 8 percent of Baby Boomers and 15 percent of Gen X can be considered Food eVangelists.
Ketchum tested multiple food technology videos in order to better understand the words and images that support consumers as they seek to learn more about food technology, using its proprietary unfiltered biometric methodology, powered by september Strategie & Forschung. The Unfiltered methodology measured physical responses such as micro facial expressions, heart rate and skin fluctuations, followed by in-depth interviews to understand if and how the content helped consumers get the information they want.
“Food can evoke powerful emotions, so companies that make food technology or food produced using technology need to understand how consumers react to messages on both the conscious, rational level and the subconscious level,” said Bill Zucker, partner and managing director of Food for Ketchum, in a news release. “Consumers want access to information that is understandable and transparent so they can make decisions that are right for them.”
“Getting this message right has never been more important. Food eVangelists are open to learning about food technology and will share more with their networks, but they are also quick to dismiss a poor explanation,” added Kim Essex, partner and managing director of Food Agriculture & Ingredient for Ketchum, in the release. “Food eVangelists in their 20s are especially powerful, not only for purchases they influence today but also for the future generations they’ll impact. This group’s openness to food technology points to a major opportunity for food marketers to rethink their messages.”
Ketchum pioneered the original research around Food eVangelists and for the past six years has followed the evolution of this group of food influencers, who engage in conversation and share their opinions about food online or in person multiple times per week. Ketchum’s food experts work with clients to help them pinpoint the right way to communicate about their food technology, including the appropriate content, speaking platforms, paid and earned media channels, and influencer relationships.
“Our biometric study showed what kind of missing information can trigger skepticism receptors, the importance of succinctly explaining the problem upfront, and that being transparent does not always mean communicating a litany of facts,” said Zucker. “What emerged is a customizable roadmap that can act as a starting point for companies creating food technologies and a reality check for those already marketing foods using those technologies.”
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