Michigan State University poll shows emerging food trends are more widely embraced by younger generations

Americans under 40 are more receptive to trying new food products, such as plant-based and cell-cultured meats, meal kits and insect protein, than those 40 and older.

Americans under 40 are more receptive to trying new food products, such as plant-based and cell-cultured meats, meal kits and insect protein, than those 40 and older.

The most recent Michigan State University (MSU) Food Literacy and Engagement Poll, conducted in September, reveals that Americans under 40 are more receptive to trying new food products, such as plant-based meats and insect protein, than those 40 and older.

"The food landscape is changing rapidly” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, co-director of the poll. "Willingness to adopt new alternatives to traditional agricultural products varies tremendously across age groups, and public acceptance of these emerging technologies will determine winners and losers in the international marketplace.”

The poll surveyed more than 2,100 Americans on a variety of emerging food technologies and options, including:

  • Plant based meats.
  • Cell-cultured meats
  • Protein powder made from insects, such as crickets.
  • Meal kits.
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“The results of this poll represent another step in gaining a better appreciation of the state of things in the consumer community,” said Doug Buhler, co-director of the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll. “As part of the older demographic, I find the age response particularly interesting. This provides yet more evidence that we are just at the beginning of changes in consumer behavior.” 

Around 2050, it’s estimated that there will be more than 9 billion people on earth — approximately 1.3 billion more than there are now — and food production will need to nearly double to meet anticipated demand. Emerging technologies and innovations in food can help feed our growing world population with fewer resources in more extreme environments. 

Plant-based meats 

Plant based meats, such as the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, have been engineered to taste like meat, but lack animal tissue. According to the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll:

  • 35% of Americans have consumed plant-based meat in the last year. Ninety percent say they would do so again.
  • 42% have not consumed it, but are willing to try it.
  • 30% are unwilling to try it.
  • Of consumers already eating plant-based meat, 48% are under 40 years old. Twenty-seven percent are over 40.

If you tried plant-based meat in the last 12 months, would you try it again?

 
Age Yes No  Not sure
18-29 164 13 9
30-39 207 15 6
40-54 187 4 14
55+ 116 5 12
Total 674 37 40

 

If you have not tried plant-based meat, would you in the future?

 
Age Yes No Not sure
18-29 116 65 42
30-39 96 40 39
40-54 153 96 102
55+ 171 178 184
Total 536 379 366

 

Cell-cultured meats

Cell-cultured meats are on the verge of becoming commercially available, but the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll suggests Americans aren’t as eager to try them as they are to try plant-based meats.

Often referred to as a more humane option, these proteins, or “artificial meats,” are grown from animal cells without needing to involve a fully-grown animal in the process. The poll found that: 

  • 35% of American consumers say they are likely to buy cell-cultured meats.
    • 49% of these consumers are under 40 years old.
    • 25% are 40 and older. 

How likely would you be to purchase foods that look and taste identical to meat, but are based on ingredients that are produced artificially?

 
Age Likely Not likely
18-29 195 128
30-39 227 111
40-54 207 216
55+ 106 391
Total 735 846

 

Insects

Two billion people around the globe already eat insects, but the practice is uncommon in the United States. The MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll finds that:

  • 25% of American consumers are willing to try foods made with insect-based protein, such as cricket powder.
    • 40% of these consumers are under 40 years old.
    • 15% are 40 and older. 

How willing are you to consume insect-based protein (i.e. cricket powder)?

 
Age Willing Not willing
18-29 155 209
30-39 189 157
40-54 142 331
55+ 52 551
Total 539 1,248

 

Meal kits

Meal kits, such those from BlueApron, HelloFresh and other similar companies, have exploded in the marketplace as a readily available and quick way to prepare meals. According to the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll:

  • 32% of American consumers have tried meal kits within the past 12 months.
    • 44% of these consumers are under 40 years old.
    • 24% are 40 and older. 

The top reason why people purchase meal kits is convenience, while the most common reason for not using them is the consumers' desire to choose their own ingredients.

Have you purchased a meal kit within the last 12 months?

 
Age Yes No
18-29 161 281
30-39 214 206
40-54 197 383
55+ 102 583
Total 675 1,452

 

GMOs

The MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll found that 47% of Americans think that they rarely, never or don’t know how often they consume GMOs. Fifty-five percent of respondents under 40 years old recognize they consume GMOs daily or once a week, compared with 32% of those age 40 and over.

How often do you think you consume genetically modified organisms, often called GMOs? 

 
Age Every day At least 1x/week At least 1x/month Rarely Never I'm not sure
18-29 113 123 67 35 24 80
30-39 120 120 54 43 23 60
40-54 95 131 67 84 49 155
55+ 61 120 45 138 80 240
Total 389 494 233 300 176 535

 

Data from the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures, to ensure that the sample's composition reflects the actual U.S. population. Launched in 2017, the poll was developed by Food@MSU and is supported by MSU AgBioResearch. The survey, conducted twice per year, is intended to provide an objective, authoritative look at consumer attitudes and perspectives on key food issues, and is designed to help inform national discussion, business planning and policy development.

 


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