- One-quarter of U.S. consumers are actively engaged in online conversations about responsible food sourcing, according to recent research from The Center for Food Integrity. The group analyzed millions of online engagements in real time and found more groups than just Generation Z are interested in ethical food sourcing.
- Many people engaging in online conversation on this topic are white, middle class and between the ages of 25 and 54. This segment of socially conscious consumers choose cage-free eggs and eat in restaurants featuring organic food because they are looking to make a positive impact on society with the food they eat, CFI found.
- The CFI research predicts the market for responsible-sourced food will grow by 4% to 49.8 million people in the next one to two years.
These latest CFI research findings are different from previous research since other recent studies have found Generation Z — the demographic group born between 1995 and 2010 — is typically the most engaged group when it comes to organic and natural products, food without additives, and vegetarian diets.
As more generations jump on the bandwagon of prioritizing responsible food sourcing, more food companies may be looking to focus on it. They may want to analyze their outreach efforts to make sure they're engaging adequately with this audience on sustainability and responsible sourcing.
The 25-to-54-year-old consumers CFI identified desire to adjust their way of living to what they believe is ethical, sustainable and moral when it comes to food. These age groups also want to be sure their consumption habits support what's best for their health and for the environment, CFI found.
Like millennials, Gen Z consumers increasingly valued authenticity, freshness and purity in their food and beverage products, but they place even greater importance on clean eating, according to research from The NPD Group. These consumers also value brands that support their personal identity — regardless of the size of the company — while millennials are more interested in smaller brands.
Responsible sourcing is key across generations as more consumers want to have control over their consumption and mitigate the negative impacts of animal production. For example, this latest research found consumers will spend more to purchase items sourced from humanely treated animals because they believe it's the right thing to do.
Other research shows these sentiments are growing. According to a 2018 report from Label Insight and the Food Marketing Institute, consumers are increasingly demanding transparency and a closer connection to their food. That study found 75% of shoppers would switch to a brand providing more in-depth product information than what's on the physical label. In 2016, 39% said they would switch brands for that reason.
In order to appeal to concerned and conscious consumers, food manufacturers are increasingly showcasing more responsible sourcing efforts. AB InBev is developing more sustainable barley varieties using less water, and Nestlé plans to fully disclose suppliers for its 15 priority commodities. Unilever launched a "Vanilla for Change" marketing campaign to tap into interest in sustainable sourcing, and Mondelez has pledged to source fully sustainable cocoa by 2025 for Oreo, Cadbury and other chocolate products.
It's likely more food and beverage companies will make similar moves, especially after research such as CFI's showing an ever-increasing number of consumers are paying close attention to where their food comes from, who produced it and how it was handled along the supply chain.