Building Trust in the Food Industry — A Consumer Confidence Conundrum


There’s concerning data coming out of recent studies that reveals declining consumer trust in food companies. In 2017, 37% of respondents said they “strongly agree” that they trusted the food system, according to a survey by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI). That number dropped to only 25% in 2018.

Those consumer confidence statistics are alarming, yet they represent incredible opportunities for the food industry. Here are ways food manufacturers can engage consumers to build trust in their brands and improve formulations to deliver on their promises.

Emphasize Ethical Sourcing and Chain of Custody

The same CFI study had some interesting findings regarding consumer sentiments about food health and safety. While consumers rank food companies and regulating authorities at the top for those they deem should be responsible for food safety, they ranked those same organizations at the bottom when it came to trust. The disconnect indicates there’s a lot of work to do, especially among food companies which ranked dead last.

Food manufacturers that include dairy products in their formulations especially need to ensure a strict chain of custody and promote it to consumers. Manufacturers should exercise due diligence when working with suppliers and inquire about farming practices and how products are procured. The study indicated that consumers have no problem consuming dairy products when farm animals are treated decently and humanely, and more than two-thirds hold a positive view of agriculture.

Use these sentiments to your advantage; first, by ensuring ethical sourcing and then by informing consumers.

Ensure Truth in Advertising

As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, more and more food product packaging is including nutrition-related buzzwords, such as the terms “natural” or “no sugar added.” However, consumer advocacy groups are exposing how some of those claims are overinflated and can mislead or trick consumers into believing products are healthier than they really are. Shoppers are becoming more savvy and learning to compare claims on the front of food products with the ingredient lists and nutrition labels shown on back.

Providing accurate labeling is not only important for gaining consumer trust, it can also help food manufacturers avoid litigation. Food labeling lawsuits are on an upward trend, pacing ahead of 2017, and “natural” labels were front and center.

To gain consumer trust, ensure accurate labeling and that the ingredients included in formulations truly are all natural. Dig deeper when working with suppliers to understand their ingredient sourcing and quality control practices so that your labeling truly reflects the qualities consumers are looking for.

Be Authentic and Transparent

Nearly every food manufacturer is putting an emphasis on natural ingredients and striving to provide health benefits while keeping costs in check. With so many natural claims on the market, it can be difficult for one product to stand out from the next.

Clean labels with recognizable ingredients still rank highly, but many shoppers want to go a step further. Consumers want “complete and total transparency from food and drink companies,” according to Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trends report, meaning they want to know exactly what’s in their food, not necessarily what isn’t. They also want to know how ingredients are sourced and produced, how their health might be affected and more.

As noted, added consumer scrutiny is often placed on products that include dairy ingredients, such as milk, cheese, cream, and even eggs, because of concerns for the ethical treatment of animals and sustainability. Included in this category is whey protein, which can be used as a replacement for these traditional dairy ingredients to lower fat and calories, improve texture and provide cost savings.

Most commodity whey protein, however, can’t guarantee ethical sourcing, a strict chain of custody or all-natural claims. Grande Bravo® functional whey protein, however, truly is an all-natural product that can check all the boxes and assure food manufacturers and consumers alike of its health benefits and origin. It’s an extremely versatile ingredient that can be used in place of high cost, high-calorie dairy ingredients and eggs for a variety of products including soups, sauces, dressings, desserts and many other applications.

There’s a difference between clean labels and label transparency, and food manufacturers that have successfully built consumer trust in their brands have leveraged this understanding and how it impacts their customers. At Grande Custom Ingredients Group, we invite you to ask questions and inquire about our products because we, too, believe in complete transparency.

Reach out to our expert food scientists today to see how an ingredient partnership can support your initiatives to strengthen or regain trust in the marketplace. Also check out the helpful guide below.