Each week over the past year, the Signals Insight has explored trending topics related to food and agriculture. In 2015, we featured insights on everything from avian influenza to glyphosate to the potential impact of meat on the environment to federal dietary guidelines. While these are all important issues impacting the food and agriculture industry, five other issues emerged more frequently over the past year. Here’s a look back at those trending topics.
As consumers become increasingly more skeptical about how their food is produced, companies are responding by removing ingredients perceived to be unhealthy. Some companies pledging to remove ingredients such as artificial colors, flavors and preservatives include General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, Subway and Panera.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients permeated traditional news and social media in 2015. Some of the topics within the GMO category included GM golden rice with the potential to supply much-needed nutrients to malnourished populations, fear of biotechnology, the approval of genetically modified salmon, and labeling.
This past year saw several restaurant chains making a commitment to sourcing cage-free eggs. McDonald’s announced it would phase out the use of eggs from hens housed in conventional cages, joining a slew of other companies including Nestle, Taco Bell, Panera, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Jack in the Box and Einstein Bros. Animal welfare groups laid eyes on the state of Massachusetts as a target for a 2016 ballot initiative to end the use of egg-layer battery cages, sow gestation stalls and veal crates in the state.
Antibiotic use in food animal production was a recurring issue in 2015. The group Friends of the Earth distributed a report card that graded top restaurants in the U.S. on their policies toward restricting the use of antibiotics in meat production. McDonald’s announced it would stop purchasing chicken raised with antibiotics important to human medicine. Other restaurant chains have made similar commitments including Subway, Chick-fil-A and Panera.
What we learned in 2015 is that transparency is the new normal. As the topics above indicate, companies are responding to consumer demand and working to be more transparent in how they produce the food we eat. CFI’s consumer trust research proves that by improving transparency, companies can increase consumer trust in food.