How Ag Can Reach Gen Z

CFI Highlights New Research, Strategies to Help Food, Ag Organizations Connect With Gen Z

Susan Payne
By  Susan Payne , DTN Social Media and Young Farmer Editor
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Dustin Dean, co-owner of Dean and Peeler Premium Beef in Floresville, Texas, gave a group of Gen Z consumer influencers and farmer influencers a tour of his ranch. (Photo courtesy of The Center for Food Integrity)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Food and agriculture organizations can better engage Gen Z farmers, consumers and workforce by having authentic conversations with them regarding the values both farmers and consumers share about food production, according to new research released by The Center for Food Integrity.

Born between 1997 and 2012, the Gen Z population has a distinct set of values, behaviors and growing purchasing power and is poised to change the face of food, according to CFI.

In a webinar on Feb. 28, CFI presented its findings after conducting digital ethnography, quantitative research and immersive Gen Z experiences for a 360-degree look at the age group.

CFI also released research-based strategies to connect with this generation in a report titled "Engaging Gen Z The Consumer, The Farmer/Rancher, The Workforce" that coincides with the research the organization conducted.


Gen Z represents the most racially and ethnically diverse generation with 52% non-Hispanic white, 25% Hispanic, 14% Black, 6% Asian and 5% a different race or two or more races, according to Pew Research (…). Current ages range from 26 years to as young as 11.

Specific to food, Gen Z adults' intake is directly related to their identities. Research from Cassandra (…) conducted in 2022 found more than half of the Gen Z respondents believe what they eat is indicative of who they are as a person; the food they buy is part of their personal brand.

When considering which brands to trust, Morning Consult (…) research found that Gen Z is "notably less trusting of the average brand" and indicates this generation prioritizes ethical matters.

"They are driven by social causes, including environmental and social justice issues. This means they support brands that align with their values," said Roxi Beck, director of consumer engagement at CFI.

Gen Z is also a champion of technology and wants to know about the technology used to produce food and innovations on the horizon that will provide the taste, quality, health and sustainability attributes that appeal to them, according to CFI's research.


CFI brought together a group of Gen Z food consumer influencers and Gen Z farmer influencers to explore beef production, nutrition and sustainability in San Antonio, Texas. The group had access to experts, including a cattle rancher, veterinarian, dietitian and chef who offered insights on the questions they had. Another tour was conducted in eastern Iowa.

Before the trip, the influencers rated several statements on a scale of 1 to 10, from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." For instance, the statement "Beef is sustainably produced" received a 6.8, "Beef is a healthy sustainable option for my diet" was rated a 7.8, and "Farmers care and implement sustainable practices on their farms" was rated a 7.

"The participants experienced things most people simply don't have access to -- a backstage pass of sorts," Beck said. "Throughout the experience, we saw many 'aha' moments from the consumer and farmer participants."

"We've been fed over and over again to be scared of the way our food is farmed and raised, and I just don't think that I believe that anymore," said participant Lauren Grant, a culinary food scientist and journalist. "I have a much more well-rounded idea of what farming is and have a lot more trust in the food system and in farming."

After the immersive tour, participants reviewed the list of statements with better knowledge of farming. "Beef is sustainably produced" received an 8.6, "Beef is a healthy, sustainable option for my diet" received an 8.8" and "Farmers care and implement sustainable practices on their farms" was rated a 9.

The tour showcased the importance of authentic conversations regarding the values both farmers and consumers share about food production, which is key to earning trust, according to CFI.


CFI put together a list of recommendations on how food and agriculture organizations can reach and engage the three segments of the Gen Z generation studied in the report. Here are those recommendations:

1. Gen Z Farmers and Ranchers

"When we think about the stakeholders that are involved in food and agriculture, obviously, food doesn't come to be without the farmer and the rancher," Beck said. "How can organizations who are directly involved with their members who are farmers and ranchers, how can they be equipped to engage this group?"

-- Highlight Gen Z's unique roles, contributions and values to agriculture to help them drive interest for the industry.

-- Foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.

-- Ask Gen Z farmers and ranchers what they want and need.

-- Address potential obstacles.

-- Involve Gen Z early and often.

-- Establish programs that empower networking and mentorship opportunities between generations of farmers.

-- Showcase technology.

-- Offer development opportunities to empower engagement outside of agriculture.

2. Gen Z Consumers

"We know they want to be engaged," Beck said. "We know they are the generation that has never lived without a smartphone. They are accustomed to getting whatever information they need whenever they want. If you're not willing to put the information out and engage them, there's another person out there that will fill that vacuum."

-- Offer what they crave (smart indulgences, a better relationship with food, balanced nutrition, clean eating, sustainable eating habits).

-- Highlight technology that resonates.

-- Meet them where they are (social media).

-- Engage trusted, authentic spokespeople.

-- Focus on a cause.

3. Gen Z Workforce

"When engaging the Gen Z workforce, showcase your company values, get them involved in initiatives that support company culture and community engagement, and demonstrate that you're committed to taking steps to impact change," CFI reported.

-- Give them a voice.

-- Showcase your values.

-- Focus on mental health.

-- Allow flexibility.

-- Provide technology.

-- Communicate sustainability commitments.

-- Seek out a diverse workforce.

-- Tailor your recruitment process.

To read the full report, visit Tour videos can be found on

Susan Payne can be reached at

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Susan Payne

Susan Payne
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