When it comes to beliefs and behaviors regarding food and nutrition, a new report from FleishmanHillard, Chicago, shows there are more commonalities among Generation Z, millennials, Generation X and baby boomers than previously understood.

“We call these cross-generational influencers ‘Gen Food’ because food defines them and is an important part of their values and belief system,” says Jamie Greenheck, global managing director of FleishmanHillard’s Food, Agriculture and Beverage practice. “They’re taking personal responsibility for improving the way we eat and drink, which provides a tremendous opportunity for brands looking to connect and drive action through food.”

The study of engaged consumers shows food unites more than it divides Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and boomers. Key findings from the study include:

  • 91 percent say food is an important part of their values and belief system.
  • 35 percent say that food defines them.
  • 79 percent feel it’s their role and responsibility to share food information with others.
  • 81 percent believe they can make a difference in the kinds of foods we eat and how they are grown.
  • 78 percent have acted to address food issues important to them, with reducing food waste emerging as their top priority.
  • 60 percent say they bear the responsibility for improving what and how we eat, more than food companies, government entities or health professionals.

When asked what the top five most important ingredients or nutrients are when making food choices, sugar content ranked No. 1 for Gen X and boomers, while protein content took first place for Gen Z and millennials. For the most part, the four generations shared similar beliefs and behaviors regarding food and nutrition.

“The implications for food, agriculture and beverage companies are profound,” Greenheck says. “Speaking Gen Food’s language and understanding their values is important to having relevant conversations about everything from sustainable nutrition to agricultural practices and food waste. It’s also vital to focus on the benefits of innovation as they become the primary drivers of food choice. Additionally, companies should make it easy for consumers to participate and contribute to a better, more responsible food system.”