According to a study by The Center for Food Integrity, consumers are finding it difficult to trust the food industry. In fact, just under half of survey respondents said they believe the food industry is headed in the right direction as far as trust goes.

Here’s what respondents had to say and what the food industry can do to regain the trust of consumers.

Who do consumers hold responsible? Who do they trust?

When you think about who consumers should trust to provide them with safe, healthy food, who do you think of first? Farmers, manufacturers, and government agencies might come to mind. However, food producers, manufacturers, and regulators are just the ones held responsible for providing safe food, not necessarily the ones consumers trust.  

Consumers trust their families, doctors, and farmers to ensure safe food. So in terms of responsibility vs. trust, farmers are actually in a good position with consumers. Federal regulatory agencies and food companies, on the other hand… Well, just have a look at this chart from the report.

trust vs. responsibility

Federal agencies and food companies are held to the highest amount of responsibility to ensure safe food, but rank among the least trusted sources. With such a rift between responsibility and trust, food companies and federal agencies have some serious work to do.

Big food vs. small food

When it comes to consumers trusting food companies, bigger isn’t necessarily better. In fact, only 25% of consumers believe that small food companies would put their needs ahead of their customers. More than twice that number said the same for big food companies.

Farmers aren’t excluded from the big vs. small company debate, either. Results were similar for attitudes about small and large farms.

Consumers want to know more

For better or worse, we live in the age of information overload. As consumers, many of us are learning to accept being bombarded with information on a daily basis. And as it turns out, consumers really do want to know more about the food they’re eating.

65% of survey respondents say they’d like to know more about agriculture, and 63% want to know more about food manufacturing. Not surprisingly, foodies, younger consumers, and early adopters are the most hungry for information regarding food sources.  

How food companies can gain trust

Consumers are holding food companies, regulators, and farmers accountable for providing safe food, but how can trust be (re)gained? CFI’s report offers tips for food companies on how to combat consumer distrust, like “enhance communication regarding animal well-being on the farm” and “engage consumers on the healthfulness, affordability and safety of food.” Each tip focuses on the same underlying theme: transparency.

“Transparency is a powerful trust-building tool. It begins by achieving internal alignment, requires authentic consumer engagement, and must be woven into the organization’s core philosophy to be successful.”

Get to know your consumers, and when you reach out, provide the information they want, not just the information you want them to hear. If you’re transparent with your consumers, you’ll have a much higher chance of gaining their trust.

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