G M Ooooh Here We Go Again!
Darren Seifer, Executive Director, Industry Analyst ;
I’m often asked if non-GMO is a passing fad or engrained behavior, and given how often I’ve been asked this over the years I’m going with the latter.
But it’s not just my gut instinct that’s driving that belief. We decided to take another look at the pulse of consumers’ concerns around GMOs and there have been some very interesting shifts in just three years. I used to joke in my presentations how most people had no idea what GMOs were yet there are millions of consumers who are saying they need to avoid them. Back in 2013, more than half of consumers said they had little to no awareness regarding GMOs. Well, that’s not the case anymore.
In fact, most consumers now have some idea of what GMOs are and many more consumers can identify potential benefits to using them centering mostly around more resilient crops. But this increase in understanding hasn’t quelled any fears for consuming genetically modified foods. In 2013, about 70 percent of consumers had concerns and that figure is now 76 percent in 2016.
The reason why I think it’s more of an engrained behavior that will last has to do with who’s driving this increase. Adults in their 20s and 30s are the main reason for the increase in awareness and concern, and since their food preparation habits are beginning to solidify, we should expect more of these behaviors as they become more prominent players in the economy and raise their children under these habits.
I think a clear example of how this is changing is the increased use of organic foods, which is one method consumers can use to avoid GMOs. Previous generations saw this as a way to feed their children “clean” foods but the parents would use traditional foods as they didn’t see the need to spend the extra money on themselves. As evidenced in both our National Eating TrendsÒ information as well as consumer interviews, Millennial parents are now asking why shouldn’t they use organic foods for themselves since they use them for their children for healthful reasons.
With the new GMO labeling law set to take effect, the question isn’t if you should disclose but how you should disclose. You can use a QR code that consumers can scan but our research shows most consumers find that inconvenient. That being said, consumers also appreciate when companies are being open and honest about their manufacturing processes. If the QR code is the way you go, you might want to use that as a chance to talk about more than just GMOs. Talk to consumers about where you source your ingredients, charities you support so consumers feel they’re supporting them too, sustainable business practices, etc. Now more than ever, consumers want to know what happened to your products before they hit the shelves.
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The consumer backlash against GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the food industry could stem from the fact that the benefits of GMOS were only touted to farmers and agribusiness in the beginning and not to consumers.
U.S. consumers have new attitudes about their eating choices and food and foodservice companies are addressing these new realities.
It’s that time of year when I gather and review all of the food and beverage and foodservice research we’ve conducted over the past year and begin compiling the next annual edition of Eating Patterns in America.
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