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Poll: Young men most critical of processed foods

Increased body and health consciousness among young men could be causing the aversion to prepared foodstuffs, a Finnish professor argues.

Image: Esa Syväkuru / Yle

A survey by one of Finland's major food producers, Saarioinen, shows that men between the ages of 18 and 34 are most critical of processed foods. About 40 percent of them have either a negative or very negative view of prepared foods.

Director Mirja Lonka from Saarioinen calls them a conscious group of consumers.

“They feel that processed food does not provide them with a sufficient amount of protein or offer gluten-free or vegan alternatives,” she said.

While the survey of 1,522 people indicated that many young women also disapprove of processed food, their views were not as extreme as men’s.

“Compared with the rest of people, young men tend to have a more critical view of everything,” Lonka said. “Their attitude will change when they get older,” she predicts.

Mari Niva, Professor of Food Culture at the University of Helsinki, disagrees. Instead, she says nutritional issues play a big role in men’s notions of prepared foods.

“Young men today are quite body and health conscious: They work out at the gym and count calories. For a group of consumers interested in protein, processed foods are not high up on the list,” Niva said.

According to Niva, the results could also be slightly skewed due to the fact that traditionally young men are uninterested in responding to food surveys. Thus, those taking part may have a more passionate opinion about food.

However, Saarioinen is not concerned that the negative view on processed foods among young men will spread to other consumer groups. A majority of the respondents said they plan to eat the same amount or more processed foods over the next two years.

“Nevertheless, we take such indicators seriously and will explore whether we need to expand our selection of processed foods in order to appeal to young men,” Lonka said.

Two million Finns eat processed foods at least once a week, while 90 percent eat them sometimes, the survey showed.

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