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FoodThink Study Examines Consumer Trust In Food Industry

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A FoodThink study reveals that nearly half of consumers who regularly buy food for their households don’t trust the food industry to do the right thing, and nearly one-fourth actively distrust it.

FoodThink researchers have studied consumer trust in food since 2012, and this new study examines food industry trust issues and how to address them. A Kansas City-based development, marketing and design firm, FoodThink from  Signal Theory has released “Creating Trust in an Era of Skepticism,” a white paper showing that consumer trust continues to be a vital issue in the food industry.

While this level of distrust among food consumers is disconcerting, the food industry has made progress in building trust and there are opportunities to keep that momentum.

Slightly more than half (52 percent) of consumers say they trust the overall food industry to do the right thing, and less than half of consumers say they trust seven of 10 food categories. Signal Theory regularly gauges and monitors Americans’ food industry knowledge, trust and attitudes, and publishes findings in FoodThink blogs and white papers.

The new research gauges the trustworthiness of food companies and institutions, various grocery categories and sources of food information. It uses the data to identify areas of opportunity and suggests ways for food marketers to build trust. Topics include factors that build or erode trust and consumer trends that drive trust issues.

“To build trust and resulting customer loyalty, food marketers need to understand consumer perceptions of food producers, brands and information sources, and how to improve those perceptions,” said Signal Theory Brand Strategy Director Erika Chance. “The good news is consumers’ growing hunger for information about the food they eat presents opportunities to build trust.”


PACT: Purpose, Authenticity, Competency and Transparency build trust

To determine useful building blocks of trust, Signal Theory researchers analyzed attributes that make brands trustworthy and patterns among these attributes. Purpose, authenticity, competency and transparency (PACT) emerged as the foundational elements for building trust. The PACT model is grounded in social and cultural theory and is evident across all of Signal Theory’s previous trust-in-food research.

“We statistically identified four primary constructs consumers use to determine a brand’s trustworthiness,” said Signal Theory Associate Data Insights Director Kelcey Curtis. “Among those four constructs, we gained critical insights into what consumers find important when choosing whether or not to trust a brand.”

Consumer trust begins with competency in delivering products and services that meet customer expectations, the study found. Brands with a clearly articulated purpose beyond profits are more trusted by consumers, and brands that authentically support that purpose in thought, word and deed establish integrity and consumer connections that run deeper than those based solely on transactions.

Transparency is a powerful tool in moving a brand from functional trust in its products to emotional trust that the brand truly has its customers’ best interests at heart.

The latest FoodThink study is built on proprietary research conducted in 2018, including responses from more than 2,000 U.S. consumers of census-representative demographic backgrounds. It is the fourth in a series of longitudinal studies that track consumer trust-in-food and related issues.


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