Consumers increasingly have questions about food … where it comes from, who’s producing it and how. As consumers become more interested in how their food is grown, processed and brought to market, the food system must ensure it is doing the right things in a way that builds trust. To earn their trust, consumers want to know that those involved in food production share their values when it comes to topics they care about most, like safe food, quality nutrition, outstanding animal care and environmental stewardship.
There are a number of projects undertaken in the US and Canada which focus solely on building trust, which is quite different from marketing to increase commodity sales or education activities targeted at school children.
Consumer sentiment research
The US Center for Food Integrity (CFI) undertakes significant consumer sentiment research to identify what makes food information credible. This information is shared to its members to help them engage in trust building activities. Find out more.
Confidence or ‘shared values’
The Center for Food Integrity was the first to introduce a research-based consumer trust model. CFI research found that shared values are three to five times more important to building trust than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills and expertise. It runs a training program, called Engage, that identifies how best to lead with shared values when communicating with consumers. Find out more.
Best food facts
Best Food Facts is one of the CFI programs. It provides answers from independent food experts to consumer questions on food using objective, fact‐based information. It draws on the knowledge of more than 200 food system experts who volunteer their time, such as university scientists, registered dietitians and farmers, all of whom understand the science behind food, food production and human health. It involves monitoring search terms, online conversations, social media and news coverage to know what food issues people are talking about and poses answers in easy‐to‐understand language. Find out more.
A clear view on transparency training and the ‘transparency roadmap’
CFI research has found that consumers primarily hold food companies and farmers most responsible for demonstrating transparency – and the demand is for greater transparency in future. Research has found that if consumers do not deem an organisation to be transparent, they believe the organisation does not have a good story to tell or that they must be hiding something. CFI has developed a Transparency Index which supports food organisations to measure their level of transparency against consumer expectation and assess how they are communicating transparently to consumers. It has also developed the Transparency Roadmap for Food Retailers: Strategies to Build Consumer Trust.
Want to know more?
Leading the discussion about consumer trust and the different models industry can adopt is international specialist Charlie Arnot, CEO of the US Center for Food Integrity, based in Missouri.The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit organisation that helps today’s food system earn consumer trust. Members and project partners represent the diversity of today’s food system — from farmers, ranchers and food companies to universities, non-governmental organizations, restaurants, retailers and food processors. They are committed to providing accurate information and working together to address important issues in food and agriculture.
Charlie is one of the world’s leading authorities on building trust in the food system. He has a rare front row seat to the entire food system as a high-level consultant and adviser to primary producers, food processors, food retailers and governments. He will be visiting Adelaide in early August 2018.
The Center is not about supporting a certain outcome. It doesn’t lobby or advocate on behalf of any brand or company or food production method. It simply seeks to make sure that consumers — in an environment where they are bombarded with contradictions — have the balanced information they need about food to make informed choices that are right for them and their families.
Charlie Arnot provides thought provoking insight into how the food system lost consumer trust, what can be done to restore it, and the remarkable changes taking place on farms and in food companies, supermarkets and restaurants every day as technology and consumer demand drive radical change. The very systems and technologies that are mistrusted by consumers are driving a revolution that empowers individual consumers to find the perfect recipe of taste and nutrition to meet their specific needs and desires.
Charlie will be speaking in Adelaide at an event hosted by Rural Media South Australia on Wednesday 8 August 2018. Visit their website for further information and for bookings.
The content for this post has been shared with Food South Australia by AgCommunicators. In 2017, AgCommunicators Managing Director Deanna Lush embarked on a Churchill Fellowship to study ways to build trust in agriculture and the food system with consumers. Her Churchill Report compiled observations about the ways in which industries and organisations internationally are proving their credentials to be trusted and respected partners in the food value chain, and outlined key recommendations and activities for change.