Consumers are rapidly changing their relationship with food. Good food isn’t just delicious and nutritious. And while food safety remains a big concern, food & beverage trend data is showing that transparency just may be the new “safe”. The new consumer definition for safety also includes assurance that food manufacturers are honest about how and where they source food; their processing systems, implementations and safeguards; and the accuracy of their labels and nutritional information. Good food means understanding what it takes to get that food product on the shelves.
Consumers are now associating “safety” with simplicity – fewer ingredients and less artificial additives are significant findings from the Deloitte report. Additionally, we know that consumers favor brands that offer health-specialized alternatives like gluten free, no salt, non-GMO, antibiotic-free and a long list of permutations. These kinds of variants – even if they are not available across the entire product line of a company’s offerings – signal to the consumer that the company is conscious about the health needs of the population and is making efforts to innovate its whole line around health concerns.
Label Insight's 2016 survey indicates that 94 percent of consumers say it is important to them that the brands and manufacturers they purchase from are transparent about what is in their food and how it is made. Consumers want more detailed product traceability and often feel unsatisfed with the information currently provided. In a technological age, complex information is expected to be sourced easily and instantly. In Forbes Magazine, The Hartman Group labels this to be the root of consumer desire for transparency, going on to mention the power of transparency in building consumer trust and loyalty.
Food businesses do not have any legal responsibility to disclose detailed traceability information. However, consumer demand provides an opportunity for food makers to share the unique story behind their products and to deepen relationships with customers by offering more in-depth information they care about. This is especially true for local producers and those that adhere to ethical and humane practices.
New innovations in labeling, like including QR codes on-package that link to online product profiles, are a solution information-seeking consumers are open to. By sharing a product's unique story through a QR code, producers can connect digitally with their customers, even when they can't meet in person. Producers are able to include their company history, photos of the people behind their business and their farm/facility, and details about production, ingredients, and certifications.
Offering information about healthy ingredients provides a significant opportunity for brands to drive long-term loyalty by providing consumers — one in four of whom choose products based on healthy ingredients - with the information they’re seeking about the food products they’re purchasing. The definition of healthy varies from one consumer to the next, so brands that offer complete transparency about their products in order to accommodate each consumer’s definition of healthy will be poised to win their favor.
Trace One (2015) Consumers Buy Private Brands but Concerns in Food Quality and Safety Point to Need for Greater Transparency. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
 Label Insight (2016). How Consumer Demand for Transparency is Shaping the Food Industry. Retreived March 14, 2018.
 The Hartman Group (2015, July 26). Why Transparency Should Matter to Food and Beverage Companies. Retreived March 14, 2018.