Empowering Trust in the Food Chain – The Future is Now

By Rodrigo Santibanez, Executive Director, Key Account Management, MSD Animal Health

The food chain is at a pivotal moment in its evolution.

Food chain partners are being challenged by a strong and growing need for consumers to understand the dynamics and workings of the food chain to empower their trust. Consumers are increasingly demanding their right to know more about where their food comes from and how the animals were raised. In the animal protein food chain, which is comprised of meat, fish, eggs and dairy, this includes consumers’ desire to know more about animal health and well-being, sustainability, traceability but also how all of this impacts consumers’ health and that of the planet.

Recent qualitative and quantitative market research among consumers and a diverse group of food chain partners suggests that vastly improved transparency throughout the animal protein food chain may be the best approach to address consumers’ heightened concern about the animal protein food chain. From the research, the top concerns among consumers centered around the need for more understanding and knowledge, greater transparency, more straightforward and credible messaging, and continued education.

  • Consumers want to know, as well as fully and clearly understand, how management and production processes are determined and executed in the food chain. They want an understanding of how animal protein products are produced, processed, and packaged from farm-to-fork in detail. This applies particularly to meat and dairy where the humane treatment and feeding of animals is of major concern.
  • Consumers often believed that the food chain is not telling them the full story around production processes and logistics.
  • Consumers increasingly want straightforward, honest, and truthful messages, which are easily understandable and credible. The best way to reach the food chain’s consumers is to use terminology that consumers understand. For example, few consumers fully understand what the food chain means when using terminology such as ‘protein’ or ‘market-fresh’. Even references to ‘regional’ can be unclear.

Research also shows that continuous and open collaboration among consumers needs to function across the food chain to ensure uniform adherence to, and application of key production, process, logistical and other agreed-upon processes, policies, and principles. In addition, both transparency across the entire food chain and traceability to source for all products and resources are essential to create and maintain consumer trust.

Constant differentiation and innovation is necessary to grow and expand the brands of the food chain, therefore we need to better collaborate across the food chain.

All partners and brands can add value by connecting the entire food chain in an open, honest and transparent manner. This requires higher levels of effective communication to ensure that consumers accept and believe the outcomes of their communications and, in doing so, these consumers may become empowered to make trusted decisions and selections. That, in turn, will offer the best chance to address the impact of changing consumer behaviour towards meat, eggs, fish and dairy products and meet consumer expectations.