EIT Food targets healthy food access for Gen Z in latest program

26 Jul 2021 — EIT Food, a food innovation ecosystem supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), is launching a program in which ten “FutureFoodMakers” will call for a radical transformation in the food sector to promote healthy food access.

“The 10 young people leading this campaign will be FutureFoodMakers, which means they will have the opportunity to represent the voices of young people from across Europe. We are currently recruiting young people aged between 18-24 for this role,” Saskia Nuijten, director of communication and public engagement at EIT Food, tells NutritionInsight.

A judging panel made up of representatives from across the EIT Food community and food sector will select the FutureFoodMakers.

“They will produce a manifesto called ‘Menu for change’ with the aim of guiding and influencing future decision-makers, including policymakers, food manufacturers, retailers and food sector stakeholders, on the future of the European food sector,” she outlines.

Transforming the food industry?
According to EIT Food’s recent survey of 2,055 European Gen Z consumers, 55 percent believe that mental health is negatively impacted when calories are printed on food labels and menus.Click to EnlargeSeventy-eight percent of young people would like food labels to have clearer information on how food is processed.

“Involving young people in these changes will enable the development of transformative solutions for the food system. This valuable insight could be used to directly inform front of pack labeling,” Nuijten adds.

Over half of 18-24-year-olds (52 percent) surveyed track their food somehow, though this figure differentiates starkly across countries, rising to 65 percent of young people in Germany compared to just 38 percent in France.

Notably, this indicates that Gen Z consumers are concerned about eating habits. The majority of this tracking (36 percent of young people) focuses on calorie counting, while a quarter of all young people (24 percent) also measure macronutrients (or “macros”) in their food.

“At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has already exacerbated inequalities for young people with disruption to their education and lifestyles across Europe, Generation Z is the most at risk of poverty,” Nuijten says.

The first step to involving young people in food system changes is to understand what they want, need and expect, she continues.

Transparency needed
According to the research data, young people feel they are not receiving the support they require to make informed and healthy food choices from industry and policymakers and educators.

Three-quarters (75 percent) state that they need more precise advice on eating a healthy, balanced diet, with two-thirds (65 percent) reporting that they did not get enough education on how to eat healthy while at school.

Many respondents said it’s essential to have a trusted, dependable source of information, with just under two-thirds (61 percent) saying it’s difficult to know how to eat healthy because there’s so much contradicting advice.

Additionally, nearly eight in 10 young people (78 percent) would like food labels to have clearer information on how food is processed, not just the ingredients. In contrast, three-quarters (75 percent) think food brands need to be more transparent with consumers about their ingredients and processes.Click to EnlargeCalories printed on food labels and menus negatively affect 55 percent of Gen Z consumers’ mental health.

The need for clear and transparent information is further emphasized by Innova Market Insights’ top 2021 trend, “Transparency Triumphs,” which reveals that three in five global consumers want to know their food source and how it is made.

Turning to social media
The research further revealed that young people are attempting to fill the nutritional gap and misinformation themselves. Two-thirds (67 percent) report regularly looking at social media content (such as TikTok or Instagram) about healthy food and healthy recipe ideas.

Meanwhile, more than half (52 percent) of people claim they get healthy eating tips from social media or friends.

The research shows a need for healthier habits in the young community.

Additionally, Generation Z is interested in healthier food alternatives across the globe. For example, Livekindly Collective launched two plant-based brands in China, with the majority of consumers being Gen Z.

“Hearing about how interested Gen Z are in healthy eating, improving their knowledge and working toward food equality all chimes with what we’ve seen from young people wanting to play an active role in shaping a healthier, more sustainable world for all,” Nuijten concludes.

By Nicole Kerr

This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.

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