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Food & Trust

Trust in Food & Beverage – A Five-Step Recipe for Success

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This blog post originally appeared in Institute of Food Technologist’s (IFT) Wellness Newsletter.

There is no magic formula to building trust among food and beverage industry stakeholders, but there are actions individual companies and organizations can take to establish and maintain trust in this environment. This year, Edelman’s 2016 TRUST BAROMETER offers a five-step recipe for increasing trust levels in food and beverage.

Trust in Food

  • Purpose is the missing essential ingredient in food and beverage industry trust. Not only do people agree that a company can take actions that increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates (80 percent), but when we examine why trust in business shifts, the common denominator is whether or not people believe business contributes (45 percent) or fails to contribute (50 percent) to the greater good.
  • CEOs must lead and engage in discussions that go beyond their business. In this transformative food and beverage environment, CEOs are expected to be personally visible in discussions about societal issues. While 70 percent of the general population believe that CEOs should be talking about financial results, an even greater number (80 percent) want to hear what CEOs have to say about societal issues.
  • If CEOs are the executive chefs, industry employees at all levels are the untapped, indispensable sous chefs in building and maintaining trust. This year’s Trust Barometer found that over 25 percent of employees in the food and beverage industry don’t trust their employer to do what is right, and nearly half say their companies aren’t engaged in societal issues. Further, 60 percent say they don’t believe their CEO is engaged in societal issues. This presents a unique opportunity for food and beverage companies. It’s important to think about how you can use employees to build and amplify trust. For example, you might use mid-level employees to help you communicate employee-centric benefits and senior-level executives to talk about innovation.
  • Swing trusters” are the food and beverage industry’s equivalent to on-the-fence voters, and they need to be further examined and engaged. Swing trusters within the industry and its sub-sectors represent between 54 to 60 percent of the general population. Research and analytics provide a powerful way to understand who those people are, how their views intersect (or don’t) with the issues companies care about, what channels they use and what they need from you to build trust.
  • Trust-building content must engage all stakeholders. The gap in trust that we see between informed publics and the general population in the Trust Barometer also applies to industry. This is especially true in sub-sectors – grocery and supermarkets, food and beverage manufacturers, fast food restaurants, agribusiness, farming and fishery, and brewing and spirits. The average consumer doesn’t go to Davos or read CSR reports, but they are still interested in the companies who make their food.

When we asked about the kinds of actions people will take when they trust – or distrust – companies and organizations, we learned that “ROI” can have two different meanings when it comes to trust. On one hand, there’s the return on investment. If people trust you, they’ll buy your products (and are even willing to pay more for them), share positive opinions and purchase stock. On the other hand, we see a return on inaction. If you’re not trusted, people will boycott your products, share negative opinions, criticize your company and sell shares. Trust-building picks up where moment-to-moment marketing leaves off. And the payoff is long-term business sustainability and success – for companies and their brands.

Tish Van Dyke is the global lead of Edelman’s Food & Beverage sector.
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