Dramatic Declines for Food and Beverage Trust

The triple crises of the Covid-19 pandemic, the related economic downturn, and the urgent need to address systemic racism have deeply impacted the Food and Beverage industry, presenting great challenges to be solved, and putting trust to test.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer: Trust and the Food and Beverage Sector uncovers a 12-point decline in trust globally following a major surge last Spring. Following are five key findings:

1. Spring Trust Bubble Bursts

The Trust Barometer Spring Update showed that the pandemic led to dramatic shifts where Trust surged in all institutions. But from May to January 2021, all institutions saw dramatic decreases in trust, losing most (if not all) of the gains seen in the Spring.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed business is now the most—and only—trusted institution; and also the only one seen as both competent and ethical.

2. The Food & Beverage Sector Remains on Shaky Ground

During this period, the Food and Beverage Sector saw similar declines. The sector saw the biggest spike in trust from January to May 2020, with an even sharper decline from May 2020 to January 2021.

The data also shows us that:

  • When we compare results from our original report—from January 2020 to 2021, Trust in F&B decreases in 16 of the 27 countries, and across subsectors, from farming, to food manufacturers, to brewing and spirits.
  • Inequality continues to be high for F&B Sector, with Brewing and Spirits seeing the largest gap in trust between the informed public and the public.
  • In the U.S. there are nuanced trust gaps across ethnicities.

3. New Expectations of Business Bring New Demands for CEOs

  • More than 8 in 10 respondents expect CEOs to publicly speak out on societal challenges like the impact of the pandemic, job automation, societal issues, and local community issues.
  • 68 percent want CEOs to step in when government will not fix societal problems.
  • 65 percent want CEOs to hold themselves as accountable to the public as to shareholders.

4. Food and Beverage Employees are Key to Unlocking Trust

The data shows that employees of the F&B sector do not trust the sector much more than the general population—there is only one-point of advantage, 67 x 66—but they do trust their own employers. In fact, the sector saw a seven-point increase in employee trust since January 2020. This more trusting audience is important to activate to help grow trust from the outside in.

5. Trust in Food and Beverage is Built One Ingredient at a Time

The Food and Beverage sector must address the food system gaps to build resilience through trust.

We know based on our 2020 Eat. Drink. Trust Report, that people expect food & beverage companies to step up and make a difference now. Only 1 in 5 people think F&B should “stay the course,” whereas most want innovation in how products are made and distributed.

When we looked at the Food System as a whole, we were able to identify five major gaps that, if addressed, would help solve for many of the issues across the sector.

  • Innovation Gap
  • Inclusion Gap
  • Information Gap
  • Incentive Gap
  • Investment Gap

Based on an analysis of the system gaps, these are the first steps to start building trust:

  • Take a hard look at where you stand.
  • Empower employees at every step.
  • Lead with facts, act with empathy.
  • Provide trustworthy, collaborative content.