According to the Food Tech Consumer Perception study (based on an August 2019 online survey of 1,232 nationally representative Americans), Gen Z respondents indicated they are more likely to try a food grown with technology (77%) and are more comfortable overall with the use of technology to grow food (71%) than are millennials (67% likely to try/56% comfortable), Gen X (58%/51%) and baby boomers (58%/58%).
A higher percentage of Gen Z and millennials qualified as Food eVangelists, a type of influencer first defined by Ketchum in 2013.
"While 27% of Gen Z and 29% of millennials fit the profile of this small but globally powerful group who want to impact the way food is raised, packaged and sold, just 8% of Baby Boomers and 15% of Gen X can be considered Food eVangelists," noted Ketchum.
To assess survey participants' comfort level with different food technologies -- such as cell-cultured foods, molecular modifications to produced healthier sugars, and proteins produced by genetically-engineered microbes -- Ketchum used its 'Unfiltered biometric methodology', to measure people's physical responses to food technology videsos 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.
“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 Bill Zucker, partner and managing director of Food for Ketchum.
“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.”
Striking the right messaging about food technology
The research showed that food makers communicating about food technology may be more effective at reaching consumers by selecting the right combination of scientifically supported facts and benefits.
“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 Zucker.
“Consumers want access to information that is understandable and transparent so they can make decisions that are right for them.”
Kim Essex, partner and managing director of Food Agriculture & Ingredient for Ketchum, added, “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.
"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.”