The report on young people, food, health and sustainability published by the University of Siena provides a multi-faceted diversified snapshot of young people (16 – 35 years of age).

The statistical sample of just over 1000 interviewees was almost unanimous (91{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622}) in saying that the price of food is the key decision criterion. This finding was investigated by asking the sample to purchase two different types of oil: an Italian extra virgin oil and a product made from EU virgin oils. Without a price indication, more than 60{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of respondents preferred to buy the Italian extra virgin oil. When the price of the two products was given, the percentage choosing the Italian oil (with a significantly higher price) fell by almost 30 percentage points.

But saving money isn’t the only consideration. The presence of harmful substances in food is a latent or clearly expressed worry for 84{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the sample, animal well-being is a source of concern for 80{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622}, closely followed (79{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622}) by fear of bacterial contamination, on a par with the fear of contracting food-related diseases (such as diabetes).

In addition to the price criterion, other decision drivers are nutritional properties (for 85{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the sample), followed by produce seasonality (84{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622}), Italian origin (83{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622}) and brand reliability (81{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622}).

In terms of food styles, the interviewees essentially subdivide into 4 categories based on their preference for food of guaranteed and certified origin (IGP, DOC, DOCG or from a qualitatively and economically superior origin) or ready-to-eat food, snacks, junk food.

The first category are the aware, who are careful about their health and sustainability, and represent 26{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the sample. People in this category prefer organic products, with DOP, IGP, DOCG certification, local and fairtrade produce. The time-pressed, representing 19{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the sample, are people who look for practicality in preparation: they often choose ready-made, frozen, pre-cooked products, frequently eat snacks and choose distributors’ own-label products (a brand as a “heuristic”, a cognitive shortcut that facilitates and speeds up the choice).

Food polytheists (24{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of interviewees) are people who frequently eat high-quality food (organic food, local produce with DOP, IGP, DOCG certificates) but equally frequently say they consume ready-to eat food, snacks, etc. Food agnostics, the largest category (31{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the sample), are people who make very limited use of the products included in both categories, both qualitatively better food (which often also cost more) and so-called junk-food.

Another fundamental factor that drives product selection and food styles is level of education. A high level of schooling almost always corresponds to greater awareness: 33{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of people in the “aware” category have a university degree.

Education is also a discriminant in determining the level of knowledge of EU agricultural policy.

On a colourful note, but no less worrisome for that: 23{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the interviewees said they acquire food information and suggestions directly from social media, the primary source of fake news, which has never been as active as it is today.