News Feature | June 6, 2014

Food Producers: Consumers Demand Transparency

Source: Food Online

By Isaac Fletcher, contributing writer, Food Online

Food Traceability Transparency Tomato

Shoppers are becoming increasingly more interested in getting easy to understand information on the foods they are eating, and it will be up to legislation and food manufacturers to deliver

Recent research reveals that 63 percent of shoppers claim their trust in the food industry has been damaged by revelations and scandals, such as the horse meat crisis. Additionally, 83 percent say they desire increased transparency and information of food products. When asked about which information on packaging they find most important, most consumers say health information, such as calories or fat content, is most influential of their purchasing decisions. This answer was listed as the first or second most important label information by over 60 percent of respondents. Interestingly, ethical considerations, such as whether food is fair trade, ranks among the lowest purchasing influencers, with 49 percent placing it last or second to last.

The research also identifies clear differences by age, with people over age 65 reporting the greatest loss of trust in the food industry. Conversely, persons aged 16-24 showed the least trust lost in the food industry and were the age group most concerned with ethical considerations. In an industry where consumers spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually, if consumer trust affects shoppers’ spending by just a single percent, a huge amount of revenue is unnecessarily lost. Nick Martin, Trace One senior VP, Northern Europe, says, “Consumers are clear on what needs to be done: they need more information and it needs to be completely transparent. They want to know more information on the products they consume, are more likely to notice health scares, and will remain aware of those scares for longer.”

Regarding steps to be taken next, Martin explains, “Against this backdrop, it is crucial that consumers get the information they need, when they need it. It is better to share as much as possible rather than risk holding back what consumers might see as crucial facts. We need collaboration and transparency across the industry, from the farm to the factory to the shop shelf. Only with this can retailers be certain that they are attracting customers and securing their trust.”

Thanks to labelling changes being made by the FDA, more accessible information is on the horizon. Redesigned with consumers in mind, the new labels are intended to make information regarding the nutritional value of foods easier to understand. Rather than lists of confusing ingredients, the labels will present the information in a straightforward way, making them more effective and more consumer friendly. Although the labeling change is a good start, it is not quite a perfect solution, and food manufacturers may need to step up levels of transparency if they hope to hold — or, in many cases, regain — consumer trust.