Three gaps between millennial moms and science when it comes to understanding food

Joe Schwarcz, Director of Office for Science and Society at McGill University discussing the importance off science in agriculture today.

Joe Schwarcz, Director of Office for Science and Society at McGill University discussing the importance off science in agriculture today.

“Humans are chemically complex beings living in a chemically complex world,” says Joe Schwarcz, Director of Office for Science and Society at McGill University, and keynote speaker at AgCatalyst 2016. But according to Dave Kurns, Editorial Content Director for Successful Farming, even the presence of chemicals is something that some millennial moms react to.

Supported by a panel of three millennial moms, Dave Kurns presented some interesting information and statistics on what drives food purchase decisions today; to which the science behind our food, presented by Joe Schwarcz, seemed to identify a gap. Based on these two presentations, here are a three ways that the food purchase decisions of millennial moms and science do not align.

Dave Kurns, Editorial Content Director for Successful Farming, with a panel of Moms, of presenting findings on the impact millennial moms have on agriculture through their food purchase decisions.

Dave Kurns, Editorial Content Director for Successful Farming, with a panel of Moms, of presenting findings on the impact millennial moms have on agriculture through their food purchase decisions.

#1: The importance of science in food is vastly different.

According to Successful Farming research, up to 48% of millennial moms say GMO-free is important in their food decisions and 73% purchase organic food at least occasionally. Scientifically, Schwarcz stated that the presence of chemicals does not indicate a presence of risk. He believes this perception of risk is driving food purchase decisions, not scientifically driven fact. Millennials are eating more at home, cooking their own food and eating less processed food, which indicates that their food dollars are being spent in line with their values.

#2: Organic food production is polarizing.

“If organic production was the solution to feeding the worlds growing population there would be no need for synthetic pesticides,” said Schwarcz. However, organic choices have increased almost 20% by millennials in the past 16 years. And 81% of millennial consumers are willing to pay a premium for foods with a perceived health benefit, such as foods labeled organic. While science and millennial moms are at odds over which production method is most advantageous, integrated pest management practices utilize the best attributes of both production systems and could be an important solution for agriculture to explore for long-term sustainability.

#3: Technology has a different purpose.

“Taking no risk is the biggest risk of all,” said Schwarcz when speaking to the need to utilize the best tools and techniques science has to offer to help support producers meet the global food demand. Technology, in its application towards science and food production, is an enabler to feed a growing population. For millennial moms, technology is an enabler to instant access to online sources to get informed. Online resources are rich with information about food, recipes, and food choices often from peers and social media influencers. Regardless of how technology is used, there’s no denying its role in assisting agriculture to create a safe food supply that consumers are confident about.

As agricultural marketers, being aware that 98% of consumers do not live on a farm is key to understanding how to educate consumers, and science alike, on where our food comes from and why choice matters. Recognizing these gaps can help reach this influential audience and connect with them on what matters most to the food they put on their table for their families.