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As Suspicion Of Food Continues To Mount, So Does Importance Of Trust

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John Ross

by John Ross / president and CEO of IGA

In the past year, we have seen evidence of what happens when trust is lost. From the sanctity of the church to the integrity of a local election, it seems everything is suspect. And this includes food. 

Americans today are more cautious about what they eat, and way more suspicious of food. And it isn’t just young Americans – shoppers of all age groups and demographics don’t trust food. In fact, 28 percent of Americans don’t trust the food and beverage industry much or at all, and less than half trust it some, according to Morning Consult.

Trust is a precious thing – it’s hard to get, but so powerful once earned. We grocers are custodians of trust, and keeping that with shoppers is an ongoing and never-ending job. So the question is – do your shoppers trust you? 

For most retailers, especially independent grocers, we intuitively believe that shoppers trust us. We take care of the community; give to nonprofits, Boy and Girl Scouts and neighborhood schools; donate food to the local food bank; hire from the community; and buy from local farmers and makers. 

But just because we know the good doesn’t mean our shoppers know. I would encourage you to ask them directly: How much do you trust my brand? What could I do to increase that trust?

The second question is the key to building a marketing plan to improve trust, which is what I am suggesting. In addition to all the other things on your plate, you should work on a plan to improve shopper trust. 

The good news is that local grocers are in a better position to do this than any national chain. Shoppers trust regional grocers more. And because of an independent family business model and community focus, we earn some of the highest trust scores of all retailers.

But no matter how good you are, you can likely improve. My research says we do a terrible job of getting credit for our programs. 

We don’t have to start from scratch – be inspired by what other retailers do. Topping the list of trusted brands in the U.S. are two grocers, HEB and Wegmans. What do they do that gets them higher scores? What do they have in common with other non-grocery brands with high trust scores, such as Chick-fil-A, USAA and Home Depot? 

Here are some suggestions on how to do the same: be clear in communicating to employees and shoppers what you stand for; focus on what you do best; be overt about your advantages; and care about things your shoppers care about. 

In many instances, these are things we already do but don’t get credit for. That’s often because we are way too humble about promoting how we give back. But these are steps we should take because they reflect family values and could influence others to do more good and because they earn us more money. 

Twenty-six percent greater earnings for high-trust brands than low. Just 26 percent. Isn’t that a metric worth working?

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