Every few years, the Non-GMO Project conducts surveys to find out what's top of mind for eaters and shoppers. Working with Linkage Research & Consulting and hundreds of shoppers in the U.S. and Canada, we look for ways to meet your needs better while building an equitable and just food system for all.
The Non-GMO Project has always been powered by people. Our work is a collaboration between ourselves, committed brands and retailers, and everyone who eats. You make the Non-GMO Project's work possible by exercising your right to choose whether or not to consume GMOs. This year's survey results highlight the importance of collaboration and show us where we go from here.
The greenest generation
Since the 1960s, the natural products industry has grown from a niche market to an economic powerhouse. Our survey confirms the momentum continues, driven by the pandemic, environmental concerns and an influx of younger shoppers.
Today, natural products shoppers make up 42% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada. They are culturally and racially diverse, and many are college-educated. Their advanced education can bring higher salaries, though their student loan debt frequently offsets their income. They balance rising living costs with investing in their health through their food choices. Natural shoppers are discerning and knowledgeable in their choices. While they are open to science-based solutions to our most significant challenges, they are wary of greenwashing and unsubstantiated claims.
One of our most important findings was that natural shoppers are getting younger — though not in a "fountain-of-youth" sense. Since we began conducting surveys in 2019, more than 17 million people in the U.S. alone have grown into adulthood. These 18- to 24-year-olds are considered part of Gen Z. Many have left their family homes. They are now shopping for themselves and preparing their own meals.
This new cohort of natural shoppers is on track to be the greenest generation yet. Gen Z shoppers and eaters make choices based on practical concerns and their unique perspectives on human and environmental health. They have a more holistic outlook overall than previous generations. They see how personal health relates to planetary health, and food production relates to nutrient density. They look for nutrient-rich foods and sustainably-produced products from brands committed to addressing the climate crisis.
Having lived most of their lives during the tech boom, Gen Z is open to scientific solutions to our most pressing problems. They are aware of the capabilities and limitations of science and tech. Overall, the new generation of natural shoppers knows their stuff.
A natural hunger for knowledge
More than ever before, natural shoppers are reading product labels before they make a decision. They seek out familiar, whole foods and avoid GMOs, synthetics and highly processed ingredients. They are willing to invest in products that benefit human, animal and environmental health, which they see as interconnected.
More natural shoppers than ever before read labels. They seek out familiar, whole foods and avoid GMOs, synthetics and highly-processed ingredients. They are willing to invest in products that benefit human, animal and environmental health, and see these things as interconnected.
This holistic worldview will be crucial in building a genuinely nourishing food system. For example, most survey participants know how food is grown and processed impacts its nutritional content. They believe regenerative agriculture can produce more nutritious food. However, only a quarter of participants feel knowledgeable on the subject. Our survey revealed a gulf between natural shoppers' emerging interest in nutrient density and their ability to take action. They still need reliable tools to help them navigate toward more nutrient-dense foods.
Nutrient density is an exciting new frontier of research and our next great area of collaboration. The Non-GMO Project is one of the founding members of the Nutrient Density Alliance, a coalition of environmental nonprofits and innovative brands working to provide eaters with reliable and meaningful data on the nutrients in their food. With the right tools, natural shoppers can be empowered to preserve their health and well-being while supporting all life on earth.
We're at a fascinating point in our collective journey. The greenest generation yet has the potential to become an economic juggernaut. Their uniquely holistic and tech-savvy outlook could promote science as a tool for public well-being, not corporate pocketbooks.
At the Non-GMO Project, we're thrilled to continue our collaboration with eaters everywhere, to refine our current programs and find new ways to serve the Butterfly's supporters. The next course could be the best one yet.