Transparency is key to a successful sustainability strategy

by Donna Berry and Keith Nunes
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Woman reading food label in grocery store
Consumers expect transparency from the markers of products they purchase.
 

CHICAGO — Consumer perception of a company and the products it produces stretches well beyond the supermarket shelf or restaurant menu. As information has become more democratized, consumers have a wide range of information sources that may influence how they perceive a company or a particular ingredient. Ensuring consumers and customers have ready access to the information they require when they want it regarding a company’s practices is a central strategy to combating misinformation and misunderstandings.

Nearly half (48%) of consumers currently do not feel adequately informed about a product even after reading its label, and two-thirds of consumers hold the manufacturer/brand accountable for communicating critical product information to make an educated purchasing decision, according to data presented Oct. 18 at the TransparencyIQ conference that was held in Rosemont, Ill.

“Consumers expect transparency from brands, but brands aren’t delivering,” said Patrick Moorhead, chief marketing officer for Label Insight, Chicago, the sponsor of the conference. “Only 12% of consumers consider brands as their most trusted resource for information about what’s in their food. Most consumers turn to their phones, tablets or P.C.s to find more information on-line.”

Consumer reading food package
Most consumers turn to their phones, tablets or P.C.s to find information about what is in their food.
 

Examples of food and beverage companies becoming increasingly transparent abound. This past October, for example, the Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., Nestle USA, Arlington, Va., and the Kraft Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, announced commitments to improve the welfare of poultry used for food production in the supply chain. Nestle committed to ending the use of crowding in the housing of chickens, improved lighting standards and the ending of live-shackle slaughter and switching to controlled-atmosphere stunning. The Kraft Heinz Co. and Campbell Soup made similar pledges and the companies have set a goal of achieving the transition by 2024.

“We want to help bring about positive change at every level of our supply chain — from our direct suppliers all the way back to the farms,” said Paul Grimwood, chairman and chief executive officer of Nestle USA. “We have already pledged that by 2020 all of the eggs we source as ingredients for our food products in the U.S. will come from cage-free hens. Today, we are taking the next step in that journey to help push for higher standards of welfare for broiler chickens.”

Broiler chickens
In October, Kraft Heinz and Nestle committed to only using broiler chickens from sources meeting a higher animal welfare standard.
 

As most companies have found, the commitment to improve welfare of broiler chickens is no small feat, Nestle said, calling it a “complex undertaking.”

“Such changes require investment and time, and the transition over the next seven years must be done in a sustainable and cost-effective way,” Nestle USA said. “We look forward to working together with our U.S. broiler chicken suppliers and others in the food industry, as well as farmers, N.G.O.s and our customers to drive progress. This matters to our consumers who expect affordable, high quality foods without comprising on animal welfare, and it matters to us. We will strive to meet these standards in our U.S. supply chain by 2024.”

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