Author and consultant Eve Turow Paul has spent the last five years studying the wants and needs of Millennials around the world, specifically those born between 1982 and 2004, and how those wants and needs are reflected in their food choices. In a discussion with USSEC, Paul discussed her views of millennials and why sustainably grown food is so important to them, as well as how U.S. soybean farmers have an advantage through growing a sustainably-produced product.

“Sustainability is one of those key buzzwords that you are seeing on grocery shelves, you are seeing people talk about it online, and it’s a key motivator for any young person,” states Paul. “Every young person wants to believe that they are making an impact.”

Demographic changes are occurring worldwide from urbanization to higher income levels, and as culture shifts, so does the way people eat. USSEC reports that more than 33 percent of people in the Asia Subcontinent (ASC) are now living in urban areas and that people in their twenties and thirties make up the median age in countries around the globe. As the greatest shopping force in the world, Millennials living in large urban cities are more than ever shaping the way food is grown and shared to meet their wants and needs.

“This is a generation that overwhelmingly believes in climate change and a generation that has faith in science, by and large,” Paul explains. “This is a generation that trusts science over the government and the media. When they are given the appropriate facts, they appreciate it, and this is a group of people that wants to make an impact and wants to do good with their dollars.”

This observation is demonstrated in various ways across the globe, as new trends such as lab-grown sustainable meats and plant-based milk options become more popular.

“Everyone is looking for products that are being raised and harvested in a sustainable way. One of the places where people have the most control these days is in deciding what they are going to eat three times a day,” says Paul. “These levels of anxiety and stress are resonating around the world. People in every single country are looking for ways to assert control. One of the best ways to do that is by choosing sustainable foods, and without question, sustainably raised livestock. Sustainably harvested and grown crops are going to resonate among international crowds, especially young folks, who want to feel as though their personal value systems are reflected in the foods they are eating.”

In response to the desire among global soy customers for a product with consistent, sustainable qualities they can count on year-after-year, USSEC worked with the United Soybean Board (USB), the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the soy value chain to build the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP). The SSAP works to ensure that U.S. soy is produced following a strong set of conservation regulations combined with the wide adoption of best management practices by a majority of U.S. farmers.

SSAP-verified soybeans have already caught on big in regions such as Europe, where 45 percent of the U.S. soy imported bears the SSAP certification. Globally, 11.4 million metric tons, equivalent to 418.84 million bushels, of U.S. soy were exported under the SSAP certification program during the 2016-2017 marketing year.

“The sustainability aspects and conservation aspects of U.S. soy set them apart from other nations around the world,” adds Paul. “It is definitely something that should be touted and highlighted and really should be thought of as you are giving the opportunity to someone else to engage in sustainability, to take advantage of the good work that U.S. soy is already doing and feel great about themselves.”

Sopexa, a food and drink communications agency, recently shared its own “Foodie Study,” and presented the research at the 2016 U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange, the premier global soy and grain trade event bringing together a global network of stakeholder partnerships, including over 700 soybean farmers, exporters, agribusinesses, agricultural organizations, researchers and government agencies. Pauline Oudin, formerly the USA Managing Director with Sopexa, said that when looking at a product that is grown, processed and then sold – like soybeans – that it is an opportunity to listen to trends and share information with consumers about how soy fits that trend. An example of this would be a trend among foodies of eating less red meat that is an opportunity for soy to share its message as part of a healthy diet without red meat.

Oudin also shared how it is important to know and understand foodie audiences. One key finding from the study: In China, consumers are very concerned with where their food comes from and how it was produced. This traces back to food safety scares in the country. Understanding that background knowledge of the consumer can go a long way with producers.

“Today we live in a world of cacophony, of overwhelming amounts of content, noise, voices,” says Paul. “People don’t know who to trust, what information to trust, who to turn to, and the brands that are succeeding today are providing opportunities for people to engage, so this is all about putting control in the hands of every individual to say, ‘you want to do something sustainable, you want to live a more green life, we are here to help you do that.’”

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