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Whether General Mills’s announcement that its iconic Cheerios will no longer contain “genetically modified” ingredients – or one of countless blog posts devoted to food politics, Genetically Modified Organisms is big news.  Information and misinformation from both proponents and opponents abound. Charleston|Orwig wondered what really resonates with consumers, so we commissioned special research to find out what they think and understand about GMOs.

GMO Blog image_42414

Our survey of more than 1,000 consumers was conducted by leading food industry research firm Datassential and included only respondents who indicated some level of awareness of GMOs.

Key insights:

  • Consumers representing all levels of understanding of GMOs (60 percent) want to know how GMOs impact theirs and their family’s health.
  • Forty percent want to hear about the benefits of GMOs.
  • The presence of GMOs in food and beverages is underestimated. Consumers say about 30 percent to 50 percent of the products they consume contain GMOs, far below widely accepted industry estimates of 70 percent to 90 percent.

A significant finding was that older millennial males (ages 26-34) believe they have “very in-depth understanding” of GMOs. These men tend to be fathers, with 49 percent reporting children under age 6.

Engaging with this group may present a challenge for the food industry. The 13 percent of consumers who report “very in-depth understanding” of GMOs are least likely to be interested in GMOs benefits and most likely to perceive disadvantages.

What about other consumers? What are the GMO perceptions among consumers with higher- and lower-incomes?  Stay tuned! We’ll be sharing more insights soon. In the meantime, see a snapshot of research highlights here.


The livestock industry is the largest consumer of soy meal. In fact, 98 percent of U.S. soy meal goes to feed pigs, chickens and cows. And soy meal is what remains after processing when the oil is extracted from the bean.

If you asked me two years ago I wouldn’t have known how to respond to any question related to agriculture.

CO garden

As a Marquette corporate communications alumna, I studied the theory and communication practices of the changing business world, not specific to any industry.

It was spring of my senior year and I was still without a job offer. However, like any good communicator, I continued my correspondence with professionals chatting over coffee and lunch dates.  Around this time,  Dr. Jeremy Fyke, the professor for my Corporate Social Responsibility class invited two professional women  to share with us their perspective of the communications world and to discuss their company—Charleston|Orwig. I think I already ruined the surprise—they hired me!

Charleston|Orwig  “is a strategic communications consultant serving leading and emerging brands, involved with every aspect of the food system-from agriculture through processing and to the point of retail.” In my (almost) two years at the firm, I assisted in a mobile tour throughout Illinois for our client the Illinois Soybean Association, which was my first exposure to real farmers and yes, real cowboys, in industry terms,  beef producers.  I then accepted a role with the account service team on Novartis Animal Health Pharmaceuticals. On this account, I learned about cow vaccinations and specifically the groundbreaking research that has revealed “evidence that reproductive losses in cattle could be attributed to commonly recommended IBR vaccine protocols.”

Only recently, I have taken an opportunity with the reputation management team and am assisting with projects on the Smithfield Foods account. They are the largest hog producer and pork processor in the world and I continue my education learning about farm animals, food processes, and all aspects of agribusiness.

Marquette University provided the professional connection and the foundational education that has allowed my continuous growth, specifically in this industry of food and agriculture.  Marquette instilled in me the power “to go and set the world on fire.”

So now, ask me a question about ag, I dare you ;)

To learn more about hot topics in the food space, read my previous blog at http://www.fieldassignment.com/2014/02/food.html


Three weeks ago I moved from my family’s dairy farm in Southeast Minnesota to Hartland, Wisconsin, to work at Charleston|Orwig. I thought my life was going to be drastically different, especially with spring right around the corner. At home this time of year we’re normally moving calves out on summer pasture. My favorite part is watching these calves grow throughout the summer, finally have their own calves and begin producing milk. This year, however, I’m going to be watching something completely different grow—a vegetable garden. Being a farm kid, I thought I was as close as I could get to food production, but this year I’ll be seeing it from a new perspective.

APCBlog_040214At C|O, I will see the product (fresh veggies) go all the way from seed to consumer. I will be helping to grow the vegetables in the C|O plot then donating them to the food pantry. Our C|O team will be the growers, workers and distributors. If we are lucky, maybe even the consumers!

Coming from a rural area with a garden that was pretty close to an acre (football field) in size, I was unfamiliar with gardening in urban areas. C|O is like many others who are looking to grow their own food—community gardens, CSA gardens and even creative backyard gardens are popping up everywhere. Just last year I helped local students put together a pallet garden. While there are many improvements I would make next year, I learned what a great and inexpensive option this approach is for those with limited space.

Have an itch to try growing your own food? This may just be the spring to try it out! If you’re incredibly successful and you don’t know what to do with all your extra produce, food banks around the country are craving fresh food. After this long winter, what will you be doing with your spring fever?


During a recent at-home convalescence I noticed now my video viewing changed. I found myself spending time seated at the table watching more online video content versus camped out in front of the awesome big screen in our loft.

Media telecommunications and streaming video concept

Naturally, I found myself wondering if this behavior was “normal”. So, typically, I did a bit of homework and found that while 79% of people online watch their video from traditional providers (cable, satellite, etc.), there is a measurable increase in video streaming. According to the Consumer Electronics Association:

  • 53% of consumers record video content to skip commercials
  • 47% view video content through a free video streaming service, and 37% via paid video streaming services
  • 50% of consumers discover new TV shows through channel surfing, followed by on-screen program guides (47%), TV commercials (47%), word of mouth (34%) and network websites such as NBC or CBS (27%)
  • 44% discover new movies by channel surfing, while 44% find them through on-screen program guides, 39% via previews at the movie theater, and 39% through TV commercials
  • 52% of those who watched, streamed or downloaded content do so on a laptop, and 44% on a desktop personal computer
  • 32% who watched streamed or downloaded content use a smartphone, and 31% a tablet

So once again, I’ve discovered that my behavior pattern shifts are “normal”. Are you shifting?




While convalescing after a minor surgery, I found myself connecting to my friends and coworkers via social networks. During that time, I found that I was really relying on Facebook and LinkedIn to stay in touch and keep up-to-date.

MO_BlogSo, seeing that I was using more than just one social network, I revisited my often-asked question, “Is this normal?”

After a bit of digging, I came to the conclusion that I’m still more normal that I want to be.  According to new research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, we’re all becoming less content with being on only one social network. It turns out that while 78% of online adults use a social network, 42% of online adults use multiple sites and only 36% use one.

In terms of popularity, you can use the following chart to see how you compare:

Adults on Social Media Sites
Social site % Using 2012 % Using 2013















Source: PewResearch, December 2013

So I’ll end this quick post with my typical question … are you normal? How many social networks are you using?


With so much focus these days on what we’re eating, have we noticed who is in the kitchen cooking it?

Team of kitchen

Millennials–roughly defined as 18- to 34-year olds–have been dubbed “the new commanders of food” by Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru. An interesting article in The Packer explores why–in summary, this generation, more than their predecessors, is interested in food and how it is prepared, is doing more cooking (especially of restaurant-worthy meals), and expects to find exotic food available in the grocery store.

Where can I find one of these millennials to move into my house?

As a member of one of those predecessor generations (on the edge of Baby Boomer/Generation X), I would agree that, when it comes to food, these younger cooks had an entirely different upbringing than me and most of my generational peers.

I consider myself a competent cook, but don’t put meals on the table worthy of Instagram. I came of age at a time when the TV dinner and the microwave oven were major food innovations. Vegetables came from a can, not a local farmers market. If we learned to cook, it was from our mothers, and a growing number of them were ditching their aprons for the workplace.

If millennials are the “new commanders of food,” what impact will the even-younger generation–those born in this century–have on our food landscape? New and exotic food is constantly being introduced in groceries and restaurants. A passion for food and the skills to prepare it is being cultivated by an explosion of YouTube videos, apps and entire television networks.

While it’s unlikely I’ll make more progress in the kitchen, my taste buds are looking forward to the future!




 Featured Video

GMOs and Consumer Awareness

Maeve Webster, Datassential

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