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Breaking Through the “Big Food” Bias

Today’s consumer is more skeptical than ever before about “Big Food,” according to the latest research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI).

They’re increasingly skeptical and believe mass production creates more opportunity for error, that industrialized food production is inherently impersonal, and that big companies will put profits ahead of public interest every time.

In our latest survey, we asked respondents to rate their level of agreement with the following statement: “Small food companies are likely to put their interests ahead of mine. Only 26 percent strongly agree. If it’s a large food company, the percentage more than doubles: 53 percent strongly agree.

Center for Food Integrity_Big Is Bad

In addition, when it comes to trust, food companies rank last on a list of 11 choices.

The potential fallout is serious and we’re already witnessing consequences in the food system as public skepticism increases even as interest in food production and processing grows. A lack of trust can result in increased pressure for additional oversight and regulations, rejection of products or information, and consumers seeking alternate, and perhaps unreliable, information sources.

Why the disconnect? Public attitudes have changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Since the late 1960s, violations in trust by institutions – corporations, government and religion – have contributed to an American mindset of mistrust in “big.”

During that same period, consolidation, integration and technological advances have increasingly resulted in food being viewed as industrialized. While the application of science and innovation have made food safer, more affordable and more available than ever before, these same advancements now fuel the cultural tide of mistrusting “big food.”

But food companies can stem the tide with authentic, long-term transparency and engagement that incorporates values shared by the public.

Consumers simply want to know you care about the same things they do, such as access to safe, healthy, affordable food, and dedication to the highest standards when it comes to animal care and the environment. Our trust model shows that communicating with shared values is three-to-five times more important to earning trust than simply sharing information.

Consumers also want the ability to engage with food companies, have access to credible information and get their questions answered promptly.

There are many aspects of consumer engagement, but here are a few simple questions to begin with: Do you have a contact page on your website that’s easy to find? Do you have a policy requiring responses to inquiries within 48 hours? Are your responses generic or tailored to the inquiry? The more personal and specific the response, the better.

Are your strategies making “big food” a bit smaller for today’s consumer? We’d be happy to partner with you to put our research and tailored communication strategies to work.

Download CFI’s latest research here, and learn more about our Engage shared-values communication program and “A Clear View of Transparency” workshop – both excellent tools to help you earn trust.

Roxi Beck
The Center for Food Integrity