Recently, we’ve seen a lot of news in the US about transparency. Many of the stories have focused on the debate around mandatory and optional labelling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), and the tensions between Federal and State legislation. My colleague Steven has written about GMO labelling and private brands and the related industry challenges in general, but the consumer demand for transparency is broader than GMOs and wider than North America. Worldwide, consumers are beginning to ask tough questions of big retail brands. And, crucially, people increasingly ask where their goods come from and who made them.
According to independent research commissioned by Trace One, 63% of shoppers said their trust in the food industry had been damaged by revelations such as the horsemeat crisis, and shoppers were clear on what retailers need to do to win back their trust. 83% stated that they want increased transparency and information about food products in order to be more confident in their origin and ingredients. And this comes in the context of the Social Media generation, where anything less than 100% of expectations being met results in a whinging tweet or scathing post. This ever-increasing need to listen to customers and react at pace is a subject we touch on regularly when we talk about UBX (for example, see this post by Tim Sutton about listening to consumers).
Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to see the reaction to the new NFU guide, entitled ‘where can I buy British Food’. The NFU (the National Farmers Union as was) claims to be the voice of British Farming, and has chosen to launch its first shoppers’ sourcing guide designed to help consumers compare rival supermarkets’ policies when they want to buy British food.
Is this a reaction to the recent Tesco launch of new ranges for meat and fresh produce with a series of (fictional) farm names? Using fictional farm names is not unique: Aldi does it too.
The NFU has decided not only to disclose supermarket policies on buying British, but also to list which retailers are sourcing British for their own-brand products so that shoppers can choose to Back British Farming with their shopping choices. In doing so it will also help to reinforce the brand values of transparency and honesty associated with the Red Tractor - the UK’s biggest farm and food standards scheme.
It will be interesting to see what impact this has on both sourcing and product labelling, but one thing seems certain: the consumer demand for transparency in the UK and around the world will only increase as time goes by.