Only 12% of the 3,000 consumers worldwide that Trace One Network surveyed online this summer said they “whole heartedly” trust the safety of food and beverages today. In addition, only 10% said they whole heartedly trust their quality.
“That metric, the lower percentage of people who truly, fully believe and have confidence in the quality and safety of the products they consume indicates there is substantial room for improvement,” said Chris Morrison, chief marketing officer at Trace One, a company that helps manufacturers and suppliers increase brand transparency.
He added that the growing distrust by consumers in the industry extends to food labels, which 27% said they did not trust, according to the survey. In addition, it found 36% of respondents do not think manufacturers act quickly enough to address “health scares.”
Why the increased alarm
This distrust stems from the many high profile recalls across food and beverage categories in recent years, including those from the Peanut Corporation of America, Blue Bell Creameries and different types of produce.
Social media also is helping raise awareness of food safety and quality concerns, added Morrison.
“Consumers are becoming more savvy about what they are eating and they are trying to buy more foods that they consider safe,” he said.
To do so, they are demanding more information, of which 62% of respondents said manufacturers do not provide enough, according to the survey.
In particular, they want to know where food comes from, according to 91% of respondents. Many people also want more information about the health benefits and risks of specific ingredients, Morrison said. For example, he noted consumer interested in gluten and genetically modified ingredients.
In order to provide this level of information and transparency, manufacturers must dig deeper than just their suppliers. They also “need more visibility into their suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers,” Morrison said.
Third party certifiers can help companies tunnel back far enough to appease consumers, and the small, recognizable icons certifiers allow manufacturers to use on their labels can provide extensive, reassuring information to consumers without taking up too much real estate.
Unfortunately, these services are not free, which can give some manufacturers pause in adding transparency, Morrison said.
Consumers will pay more for information
Luckily, the survey revealed that consumers are willing to absorb at least part of the added cost. Specifically, it found, 40% of consumers said they would pay more for a food product with more ingredient and allergen information, according to the survey.
This statistic demonstrates the value consumers place on additional information on labels and it hints at increased transparency’s greater impact on consumers’ overall confidence in a brand, Morrison said.
Certifications are not the only way to add extensive information to small labels, he added. He also extolled the benefits of using QR codes on labels that consumers could scan with a smart phone in stores to gain more information about a product instantly.
While not all consumers will use QR codes or research each product online prior to buying it, if they do look up a product and the information they want is not available, they likely will not buy it for fear the company is hiding something.
With this in mind, Morrison said, providing extra information online is an instance of better safe than sorry.