Building consumer trust in the agri-food supply chain

Alison Johnson, Managing Director at Food Forensics discusses the importance of building consumer trust in the agri-food supply chain.

Now more than ever, consumers have numerous options when it comes to where and what food to buy. Trends show that consumers want to know more than just the nutritional information – they want to know the foods origin, when it was grown and how.

In June 2020, the EIT Food Trust Report surveyed 19,800 consumers across 18 European countries on their trust in the food system and confidence in food products. Farmers were the most trusted within the food system (67%) with manufacturers the least (46%). 20% of consumers do not trust retailers. Quite worrying statistics. 


The same study reviewed food product integrity (measured by taste, safety, healthiness, authenticity and sustainability)

It becomes clear trust is being eroded through the supply chain and there is a clear opportunity to change this.

We also need to bear in mind the above study was undertaken in June 2020 – before the extent of Brexit and Covid-19 impacts were fully seen. The resulting supply chain disruption has undoubtedly increased the opportunity and the incentives for fraud.

Why does trust matter?

The quote; “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair” has never been truer. If the horse meat in burgers saga taught us anything, it was this. Pre-“horsegate”, consumer trust was reported at 69%, immediately after this dropped to 35% and has not yet fully recovered. The cost of a food product recall, quoted at £312,000 per incident in 2017, does not begin to reflect the total cost. Man-hours, empty shelves, 55% of people said they would switch brands, with 21% saying they would avoid purchasing any brand made by the offending manufacturer. In none of the incidents is the actual perpetrator the one losing trust or business. Those associated with that business are paying the price.

What can we do to increase trust?

Without a doubt, transparency enhances trust in the supply chain. Collaboration demonstrates a willingness to build trust. But what is transparency? Essentially it is making information accessible, sharing the supply chain or supply network with consumers, being clearer about the information you know (and, perhaps more importantly, what you don’t). Where you don’t have access to information, how are you mitigating the enhanced risks associated with this? Being prepared to share your supply chain vulnerabilities and explain what you are doing to reduce any risks associated with this is critical to growing trust. Shorter supply chains should be able to demonstrate managed risks, more complex supply chains will need to be open to identifying risks and sharing mitigation interventions.

What tools are available to support this?

Supply chain management tools, such as Greenlight Supplier Management are a great start for understanding the origins of your product. Supply chain transparency gives you the opportunity to collaborate with your supply base and quickly action and manage responses to risk.

Linking this with intelligence and insight from the Food Forensics Knowledge Base will drive smarter risk management. Identifying relevant risks and targeting interventions, focusing effort on risk management where risks are higher and/or harder to control. Using the data feedback from testing to monitor the effectiveness of the interventions and mitigations would provide a step change to risk management and supply chain transparency – exactly where we need to be to enhance and protect consumer trust. 

 

References - EIT Food Trust Report 2020; Microsoft Word - Harris Poll 53 - Crisis Food Recalls_06.12.07.doc (theharrispoll.com) ; AGCS Global Claims Review 2017 (allianz.com)

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