Food retailers winning trust through COVID-19 pandemic
14 December 2020
Farmers also saw boost in consumer trust as one in four European consumers had greater faith in the food industry
Consumers are more trusting in the food industry because of the COVID-19 pandemic with farmers and retailers seeing the biggest rise, according to new research.
The results of a EIT Food-funded project, Increasing consumer trust and support for the food supply chain and for food companies reveals that the ability of the food industry to continue to stock shelves despite the global pandemic has led to improved trust.
In the UK, food retailers including big supermarkets have seen improvements to levels of public trust. Participants said that the greater transparency about the way that the business is run, as well as fairness and increased quality of products, were crucially important to trust.
Professor Richard Bennett from the University of Reading leads the EIT Food-funded Grand Challenges project. Professor Bennett said:
“Faced with what could have been a damaging period for the food industry, the way that different companies and parts of the system have managed to continue to deliver food to the shelves and peoples plates has done a lot to engender trust.
“It’s not surprising to see that food retailers have also improved their levels of trust in 2020. As the global pandemic led to panic buying and stockpiling, retailers responded quickly and fairly to ensure that essential items were available as much as possible. We have also seen how restrictions have redefined what we consider key work which includes food retail which has further helped.
“The global pandemic has been a turbulent time for the food industry, but these results demonstrate that different businesses and individuals involved approach 2020 having gained more public trust than when we started.”
As part of the project, consumers have been able to have their say on how the food industry should be improving to win public trust through the new project.
Using data on public trust in the food industry, the team behind the project have been meeting with different parts of the industry to engage in trust building work, and will be facilitating forums where consumers can work with the food industry on projects to improve trust further.
Researchers have met with food industry representatives who recognise that transparency is key to consumer trust and that this requires openness, honesty and a willingness to engage with consumers and other stakeholders.
Professor Bennett said:
“In particular, we see that farmers continue to enjoy the top step in the trust podium, benefitting from the continued image of being hard working independent producers who face a lot of risks and particularly in the UK.
“Consumers are telling us that key aspects of that trust come from an ethical approach. Animal welfare, reducing food waste, fairness in pricing and honest labelling were seen as the key improvements that different parts of the sector should be focusing on. This shows that we as shoppers are wanting to see better and fairer standards of our food.”
More information about the project can be found at:
About EIT Food
Increasing consumer trust and support for the food supply chain and for food companies is a project under the support of EIT Food. EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.
The initiative is made up of an innovation community of key industry players across Europe, consisting of over 90 partner organisations and over 50 startups from 16 EU member states. It is one of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT) an independent EU body set up in 2008 to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.
This activity has received funding from EIT Food, the innovation community on Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the EU, under the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
EIT Food is Europe’s leading agri-food innovation initiative, with the aim to create a sustainable and future-proof food sector. The initiative is made up of a consortium of key industry players, start-ups, research centres and universities from across Europe. EIT Food aims to collaborate closely with consumers to develop new knowledge and technology-based products and services that will ultimately deliver a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for all European citizens.