The year 2015 proved difficult for food retailers and manufacturers, as many experienced high-profile food recalls. Chipotle came under fire four times in just five months for food contamination issues—all from different sources. In addition, a breakout of E. coli in celery has caused recalls in a number of major brands. With so many recalls in the news, food safety is increasingly becoming top-of-mind for consumers.
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A recent survey by Trace One found that while 91 percent of consumers think it is important to know where their food comes from, only 12 percent of consumers wholeheartedly trust the safety of the food they consume and only 10 percent trust the quality of their food. So how can companies help consumers trust their brands? The following are a few recommendations.
Avoid the Blame Game
Regardless of who along the supply chain is actually responsible for a food crisis, the customer will place blame on the brand they know and from which it was purchased. According to Trace One’s survey, 84 percent of global consumers feel food manufacturers and retailers are most responsible for food quality and safety. The scrutiny placed on brands means that food makers and sellers need to facilitate supply chain communications to ensure that all of the products they sell are safe and easily traceable. The survey also revealed that more than one-third (36 percent) of consumers do not think food retailers and manufacturers act quickly enough or provide timely information during a food crisis. When faced with a food crisis, retailers that already have regular communication throughout the supply chain can identify the affected products in a matter of hours and limit the amount of people consuming the contaminated food. Consumers expect to have information about the affected products faster than ever before, and retailers need to respond accordingly.
Food supply chains are complex, and supply chain collaboration, communication, and transparency are now essential components to food safety. Increasing transparency about where food comes from is the most effective way to build consumer trust in an imperfect and complex industry. In fact, The Center for Food Integrity recently published a study that underscored the consumer’s desire for authentic transparency. A major takeaway from the study was that consumers want all the details about the food they consume, both good and bad, so they can make informed decisions about which foods they will eat.
Have Full Visibility into Supply Chain
Most food retailers know all of their suppliers in the first tier of their supply chains, but many do not know their second, third, fourth or fifth tiers. This means that many retailers do not know where many of their ingredients are sourced from, or the processing and handling of those ingredients. Without this information, retailers can’t be sure their products are safe and won’t be able to act quickly in the case of a recall. Retailers are beginning to realize that they need to fill those gaps of knowledge in their supply chain data because, regardless of who along the supply chain is ultimately responsible for contamination, it is their brand that will scrutinized publically.
Having full visibility into the supply chain helps to avoid crises, but it also helps companies comply with government regulations and increase efficiency. Additionally, when consumers feel that the brands they buy from care about their safety and are transparent about the quality and origin of their foods, it builds brand trust—and positively impacts brand revenue.
Morrison is chief marketing officer of Trace One. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.