Zero tolerance

Zero tolerance

Image: EIT Food

When it comes to Gen Z, there’s no shortage of studies and analysis to try and define their impact on society at large. Nonetheless, their social impact is hard to ignore. We now have new research illustrating that point.

EIT Food has found that young people across Europe want an overhaul of how they access, discuss and learn about healthy food. The source of information for young people aged 18 – 24 are social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram for advice on healthy eating to compensate for a lack of information from educators, industry and policy makers.

Over half of 18-24 year olds (52%) track their food in some way, though this figure differentiates starkly across countries, rising to 65% of young people in Germany compared to just 38% in France. This suggests that Gen Z are very interested and engaged with their eating habits. The majority of this tracking (36% of young people) is focused on counting calories, however a quarter of all young people (24%) also track the macronutrients (or “macros”) of the food they eat.

What’s interesting is the advice gap leads young people to rely on social media platforms for healthy eating tips. Some site appear to be a particularly thriving breeding place for unqualified (and sometimes qualified) individuals who communicate poor quality health information.

For individuals using social media platforms, there is limited guidance on how to sift through and eliminate poor quality and irresponsible nutrition information, particularly at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of the importance of eating healthily.

Despite this keen interest and engagement with healthy eating, young people feel they aren’t getting the support they need from educators, industry and policy makers to do so. Three-quarters (75%) say they need clearer advice on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet, with two-thirds (65%) reporting they didn’t get enough education on how to eat healthily while at school.

Having a trusted, reliable source of information was identified as being vital by many respondents, with just under two thirds (61%) reporting they feel it can be hard to know how to eat healthily as there is so much conflicting advice.

It’s telling that, according to the EIT Food study, young people are looking for more detailed information from brands, especially when it comes to how food is made. Nearly eight in 10 young people (78%) would like food labels to have clearer information on the way food is processed, not just the ingredients, while three-quarters (75%) think food brands need to be more transparent with consumers about their ingredients and processes.

Such demands put the onus on food makers to be the authoritative voice to impart appropriate, honest, trustworthy information that also respects confidentiality. They are in an advantageous position to put forward reliable nutrition information that should enable consumers to choose what is in their best interest.

Very often what consumers see online enhances a belief that we should do things a certain way. The connection developed online, although superficial, makes us trust their advice. Clearly, what we see on our phone, tablets and laptops matters. Food makers can advertise themselves as exemplary members of the healthy-living movement, because of their expertise. It’s a tremendous opportunity to create a relatable, recognisable brand persona to no just provide accurate information but boost engagement and indirectly inspire consumer loyalty.

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