New research from the United States suggests that consumer confidence in food companies has plummeted after less than one in five said they trusted firms to develop and sell healthy products.
The survey, conducted by IBM, also found that 60 per cent of people are actively concerned about the safety of food they purchase, while trust in food manufacturers to handle food recalls properly has fallen.
The authors noted: “Consumers are increasingly wary of the safety of food purchased at grocery stores, and their confidence in - and trust of - food retailers, manufacturers and grocers is declining.”
Customers are demanding more information on the products they buy and purchasing habits have also shifted as people are prepared to pay more for higher quality food, said the researchers.
Debilitating impact of recalls
The damaging impact of food contamination scares and subsequent recalls on company products was highlighted as a major concern. Almost half of the 1,000 people interviewed across 10 US cities said they would be less likely to buy something that had been the subject of a recall.
Over 80 per cent of respondents were able to name a food product that had been recalled in the past two years, with 46 per cent citing peanut butter. Spinach was the next most recognizable food scare with awareness running at 15 per cent two years on.
Almost two thirds would not buy food involved in a recall until the source of the contamination had been identified and rectified and 8 per cent declared they would never buy the product again.
“These findings underscore how the rise in recalls and contamination has significantly eroded consumer confidence in food and product safety, as well as with the companies that manufacture and distribute these products”, said the survey.
A question of trust
Only 55 per cent of people said they trusted food manufacturers when dealing with a recall of a tainted food product. The report said this showed a “decrease in their level of trust over the past two years”. However, it added that 72 per cent of customers have faith in retailers to properly handle a food recall.
Some 57 per cent of consumers said they had stopped buying certain foods on safety concerns – even for a short time.
Consumer appetite for information about food products has increased over the last two years - with 77 per cent eager for more information on ingredients and 76 per cent interested in it origin. Almost three quarters are prepared to do more research into how the food products are grown, processed and manufactured, said the study.
However, the authors warned: “Despite industry efforts to keep consumers informed with more detailed product information, there's still a significant gap between consumer expectations and what retailers/manufacturers are providing. “