According to a global online survey commissioned by PR-specialists Ingredient Communications, 52% of respondents said the food sector had “a lot” and a further 37% said food makers had “some” responsibility for ensuring their diets were healthy. Only 9% of consumers globally thought food and drink companies had no responsibility at all.
In Europe, 84% of those surveyed believed food companies have some degree of responsibility for ensuring they have a healthy diet.
While consumers believe the food industry bears at least some responsibility for their diets, respondents also revealed a high level of mistrust towards food businesses.
Overall, it emerged that the food sector is not widely viewed as a credible disseminator of nutrition insight. When presented with a list of ten sources – from health care professionals to celebrities – 41% of respondents ranked food companies as among the least trustworthy information sources. Only 5% ranked food businesses as most trustworthy.
European consumers are the most likely to trust governments or other public bodies as a source of information about nutrition and healthy eating. Globally, doctors and healthcare professionals are the most trusted.
Bridging the trust gap
Food companies, whose motives can be viewed with cynicism and whose trust levels have been sapped by food safety scares, need to work to regain consumer trust. But this process isn’t straightforward, Richard Clarke, director of Ingredient Communications, told FoodNavigator.
“Transparency and honesty are key,” he suggested. In particular, food makers can capitalise on growing consumer awareness of nutrition issues by responding to trends such as mounting pressure for provenance and so-called ‘clean labels’.
“Increasingly consumers want to know the details of everything that’s in their favourite products and companies that can tell a convincing story about the provenance of ingredients will be rewarded. Often the healthiest ingredients are natural ones that consumers recognise, so a commitment to nutrition and clean and clear labelling go hand in hand,” Clarke suggested.
Beyond the ingredients list, food companies can also boost their profile by becoming involved in multi-stakeholder healthy eating campaigns, he continued. “Companies can also benefit from developing innovative new ways to demonstrate their commitment to their customers’ health. Increasingly we’re seeing brands working with stakeholders on healthy eating campaigns, for example.”
Clarke believes that the road to gaining consumer trust is a long one that requires food makers to be transparent about their efforts to deliver on health and wellness. “Things won’t change overnight, but companies that are genuinely committed to their customers’ health – and prepared to be open and honest – will eventually build trust.”