When it comes to Millennials and Gen Z, there is, objectively, one way they have been pretty spoiled — access to information.

Or, well, as a “geriatric millennial” I guess, “we” have been spoiled would be more appropriate.

But, yes, when it comes to finding the answers to our questions, we’ve spent most of our lives with the ability to Google, Ask Reddit, and YouTube every possible query.

In fact, Google came out in 1996, while Reddit and YouTube both launched in 2005. My younger sister just graduated college last week at 21 years old. She was born in 1999 — three years AFTER Google.

As someone born on the cusp of Gen X and Millennials, I spent enough of my elementary school years flipping through wooden drawers full of card catalogues and scanning microfilm blown up on light projectors to understand how massive this shift has been.

In fact, just in my lifetime we went from physical paper directories to having information “at our fingertips,” to finding what we’re looking for at the tip of our tongue with Siri, Alexa, and ‘Hey Google.’

So it makes sense that Millennials and Gen Z would just expect to be able to find the same information about their favorite brands. It’s not just them though. We’ve all been living with that ability long enough that consumers of all ages expect access to information.

Or, as the consumer packaged goods industry tends to call it, “transparency.” Innova Market Insights said that “transparency” is the clear winner for its Innova Top Trends for 2021.

Specifically, an Innova Consumer Survey indicates that 85 percent of consumers globally say that information on what is in their food is of major importance to them. Similarly, 59 percent say that they want to know where their food comes from and how it is made.

Companies are taking notice, and upping their game in response. 

“Brands adopting and pairing new packaging technologies such as invisible barcodes and near-field communication technology with creative, meaningful storytelling will be successful,” Innova said when it announced the 2021 trends in October 2020.

The demand for transparency also spans the globe. In fact, interest in transparency is highest in emerging markets. Innova said that’s likely because transparency is already more advanced in developed countries, while in emerging markets access to information through social media and online is increasing, driving demand.

“These greater levels of transparency not only build trust in brands,” according to Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights, “but also feed into many more specific considerations, including what is in the food in terms of natural ingredients and formulation, where it is manufactured and what impact its production has on the environment and/or society.”

Ingredient transparency moves beyond clean label

While “clean label” and “clean eating” trends have traditionally driven consumer demand for ingredient transparency, Innova says it’s gradually evolving to encompass a variety of different aspects.

In short, consumers are thinking more multi-dimensionally about making shopping decisions that they can feel good about.

“There has been a shift in focus from claims covering health aspects such as natural, organic, no additives and nothing artificial, into areas such as GMO-free and minimally processed,” Innova said. “We are also seeing more interest in real and recognizable, shorter ingredients lists as well as dairy and meat alternatives while fat, salt and sugar reduction remain important.”

The definition of “clean label” now also encompasses areas beyond the product itself into the ethical and environmental factors surrounding production. Innova said it is seeing more claims related to human and animal welfare, and an increased focus on supply chain transparency and plant-powered nutrition as well as sustainable sourcing.

Supply chain transparency advances

Transparency throughout the supply chain also is set to dominate activity through 2021 and beyond, with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate, Innova said.

Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis appears to have intensified consumer interest in transparency and responsible production, and this is likely to persist going forward.

According to an Innova survey, 28 percent of consumers globally said that trust had become more important to them over the past 12 months, while over a fifth specifically named “transparency,” which is instrumental in building that trust.