Cracking the code on food issues

Increasing number of consumers say U.S. food system headed in right direction.

How do we connect when scientific consensus and consumer beliefs are not aligned or when consumers don’t accept what science says is true? Charlie Arnot, The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) chief executive officer, presented new data to attendees at the 2015 International Production & Processing Expo today that provide insight into how to answer those exact questions.

“Cracking the Code on Food Issues: Insights from Moms, Millennials & Foodies,” new consumer trust research from CFI, provides a roadmap for those in today’s food system to make complex, technical and controversial information relevant and meaningful to the decision-making process of today’s consumer.

To provide a greater understanding of moms, millennials and foodies, the groups driving consumer thought on key food issues, the results were segmented into the three groups.

A key takeaway from the research was how important food issues are to moms, millennials and foodies. The information helped define who the individuals are as people and what shapes their cultural identities. The research revealed that foodies, in particular, express a higher level of concern about food-related topics than any other segment. Additionally, it concluded that how technical and scientific information is introduced to the three groups is crucial.

Arnot pointed out that top concerns for all three groups were the rising cost of food and keeping healthy food affordable.

He said there has been some improvement in how consumers view the status of the U.S. food system. This year, 42% of survey respondents said the food system is headed in the right direction, an increase from 32% last year. He said although the cause for the increase is unknown, it is a step in the right direction. The number of respondents who believe the U.S. food system is on the wrong track decreased from 38% to 30%. The number who feel unsure about the food system decreased from 28% to 27%.

Using scenarios on the topics of genetically modified ingredients in food and antibiotic use in animal agriculture, the survey tested three voices: a mom scientist, a federal government scientist and a peer “who shares my interest about food.” After reading information about the two topics by each of the three voices, trust in the mom scientist and government scientist remained strong, while the peer lost trust. This indicates that once shared values have been established, having technical expertise and a credential help build credibility when communicating technical information.

Further, the research also revealed respondents’ trusted sources for food system information. Websites ranked highest for moms, millennials and foodies. The second choice for moms was local television stations, while millennials and foodies preferred friends (not online).

To view the full report, visit

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