KANSAS CITY — Concerns about ethical consumption often are associated with Gen Z.
Young consumers’ demand for transparency from food companies is so strong that global consulting agency Futerra recently dubbed them “the honest generation.” New research from The Center for Food Integrity (C.F.I.), however, revealed that that interest in responsible sourcing isn’t just for children.
C.F.I. analyzed millions of online engagements in real time and found that a quarter of American consumers are actively engaged in online conversations about responsible sourcing in the food industry. Most of them were white, middle class and between the ages of 25 and 54.
“Picture a socially conscious consumer who considers themselves a ‘cool foodie,’” said Terry Fleck, executive director at C.F.I. “It’s someone who doesn’t shop in traditional supermarkets — but purchases beef raised without antibiotics from a specialty butcher, always chooses cage-free eggs and dines at trendy restaurants where organic food is prominent on the menu.”
The research profiled consumers who adjust their habits and behaviors based off fears about society’s consumption habits and its effects on their health and the planet’s health.
“These consumers are not silent bystanders,” Mr. Fleck said. “Their priority is to advocate for a new moral standard for consumption by choosing products that promote social justice, equality, environmental sustainability and animal well-being.”
C.F.I. predicted the segment will grow by 4% to 49.8 million in the next 12 to 24 months. In order to engage with this growing audience, restaurants and retailers should assess their outreach to ensure they’re promoting sustainability and responsibility efforts in way that builds trust, according to C.F.I.
“All consumers want those producing their food to be upfront and honest,” Mr. Fleck said. “(They) want assurances that the values of the company align with theirs.”