The Natural List – Gen Z food trends

Food ethnographer June Jo Lee unravels our evolving relationship with food and how it's defining the future of CPG. Listen to this discussion.

41 Min Listen

In this episode of The Natural List, co-hosts Jessica Rubino and Adrienne Smith are joined by esteemed food ethnographer June Jo Lee. With studies in both medical and cultural anthropology from Harvard, June Jo explores the relationship between people and the foods they eat to “nourish the modern hungers of disconnection and dislocation.”   

She also delivered the keynote address on Climate Day at Natural Products Expo West in March.

Is “regenerative” a fad or a cultural shift? What patterns emerge from countless founder stories? How does “caring more” relate to Gen Z and their connection to food? And what would a Michelin star restaurant serve on Mars? 

Catch this week’s episode to enjoy a masterclass in food as a progressive reflection of who we are and how Gen Z are defining who we become. 

In this episode:   

  • 3:00 – Welcome to our guest, June Jo Lee!  

  • 3:55 – June Jo Lee discusses her work as a food ethnographer and special areas of interest.  

  • 7:40 – Fads vs. cultural shifts   

  • 10:50 – Gen Z prioritizes connection over certification.  

  • 17:40 – How maker culture drives innovation.  

  • 21:10 – Our country’s food journey: returning to relational.  

  • 28:00 – June Jo Lee describes her experience collaborating on the Natural Products Expo West keynote The State of Natural and Organic.   

  • 32:35 – A restaurant on Mars?  

  • 35:05 – It's time for the Gen Z list! 

Related:The Natural List – Restoring ecosystems: Regeneration before sustainability

Brands featured in this episode’s segment of The List: For Bitter or For Worse, OEM, Mila, Chamberlain Coffee, Mela and Hot Jiang. 

 Enjoy this new episode here and wherever you listen to your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.   

Interested in being a guest on The Natural List? Email us at [email protected]

Our guest

June Jo Lee 
Founder, Food Ethnographer LLC 


June Jo Lee is a food ethnographer, bridging ‘what we eat’ with ‘who we are becoming’ for senior leadership at Google and other businesses. She delivers strategic insights (improvements, innovations, transformation) for businesses to maintain relevance and even bend culture.  

She founded Food Ethnographer LLC to nourish modern hungers of disconnection and dislocation. There are three parts to her work: food-centered qualitative research into the future of Culture, Tech and Sustainability to inform business strategies; an education platform, Readers to Eaters, which publishes stories about our delicious food culture for children to help them discover their own tastes; and Wunderland Lab, a place to explore the edges of food culture and taste-making. 

June Jo studied medical and food anthropology at Harvard, and has spent her career working as an ethnographer for consumer packaged brands such as Nestle, General Mills and more; retailers, including Walmart and Whole Foods Market; and food service providers for corporations and universities. She served as vice president of strategic insights at The Hartman Group, leading its qualitative consumer research for food brands. For the past nine years, she has served as resident food ethnographer for Google’s Workplace Services. She speaks at national conferences for the food and education industries, and has co-authored picture book biographies Sandor Katz and The Tiny Wild (2022) and award-winning Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix (2017). 

June Jo grew up transnationally between Seoul, Korea, Palo Alto, California, and Austin, Texas, eating her mom’s alien kimchi. She lives in San Francisco, California.

Your hosts  

About Jessica Rubino  


Jessica Rubino is a natural products industry expert and content strategist with more than 15 years experience in media, events and natural products. As New Hope Network’s vice president of content, Jessica oversees digital and print content, conference programming and branded content for CPGs, retailers, investors and service providers. Jessica is passionate about using innovation as a force for good and leveraging content to spark the changes we want to see in the world.  

About Adrienne Smith  


Adrienne Smith is the director of content for and the editor-in-chief of Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine where she helps ideate and produce content for natural products retailers, brands and entrepreneurs. Before coming to New Hope Network, she spent nearly two decades writing about food and beverage products and trends for the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Trade in Madrid, Spain, as well as for publications including the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and El País

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