There’s no denying the impact that the younger generations are having on the food industry. Companies only recently started to get a handle on what Millennials want, and then Gen Z came along and pushed the industry even farther from its traditional path.

While we’ve written a lot about how younger consumers are driving trends toward healthier, more natural, more functional foods, and more sustainable foods, that doesn’t mean they’re not open to new food technology.

In fact, Gen Z and Millennials are the most open to new food technologies, according to new research from global communications consultancy Ketchum. In a study of more than 1,200 consumers, Ketchum found that Gen Z is more likely than older generations to try a food grown with technology and more comfortable overall with the use of technology to grow food.

% of respondents likely to try a food grown with technology % of respondents comfortable with the use of technology to grow food
  • Gen Z — 77%
  • Millennials — 67%
  • Gen X — 58%
  • Baby Boomers — 58%
  • Gen Z — 71%
  • Millennials — 56%
  • Gen X — 51%
  • Baby Boomers — 58%

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you think about the recent success of plant-based meat —
an technology-driven food that younger consumers love

The trick, Ketchum found, is getting the messaging right. Their earlier research suggests that path to trust involves using clear language, communicating the right information to the right audience, explaining technical and scientific terms, and testing messages rather than making assumptions. The new findings further support this framework. “The learnings from this research are rich, and they clearly indicate food technologies must be introduced to consumers using the right combination of scientific fact and emotion to unlock acceptance before foods made with technology are brought to market,” Kim Essex, the company’s managing director of Food Agriculture & Ingredient practice, wrote in a press release

The good news for processors and manufacturers that get it right is that these younger consumers are also most prone to talking about their food experiences. In a previous study, Ketchum identified a group of consumers they call Food eVangelists, which the company defines as “an influential group of consumer advocates who are passionately driving a movement to challenge and change the industry.” 

These consumers are the ones who most want to know about where their food comes from, the details of the ingredients, information about sustainability practices, and so on. They’re also the ones most likely to share what they learn. Ketchum’s research shows that this group has been growing over time, and that 27% of Gen Z and 29% of Millennials are Food eVangelists, compared to 15% of Gen X and only 8% of Baby Boomers.

The take-home message is that the younger generations are listening and engaging. The successful food companies of the future will be the ones that learn how to talk with these consumers about new innovations now.