Radical transparency is the watchword for 2018, at least according to market intelligence agency Mintel. Taking that claim to heart, food supplier Cranswick has just released a new report all about the subject.
“Being able to prove the origin of where meat comes from is fast becoming a business-critical issue… demand for food provenance will grow,” said the company’s CEO, Adam Couch, who continued: “We have a real opportunity to make our industry more responsible to challenges it faces, so it can quickly identify and implement solutions to tackle these issues head on.”
The report notes that, in the wake of the horse meat scandal and other scares, consumers have “higher expectations for food quality, safety and security.” Retailers and manufacturers that can ease concerns on these topics are likely to profit.
So how does Cranswick suggest businesses can accomplish this?
1. Turn up the tech
Provenance isn’t a new concept, but it is one that grows in strength every time there’s an outcry over tainted produce. One way to reassure customers about where their meat has been is by using blockchain, the tech behind bitcoin. Already used by Walmart, Unilever and Nestle – as well as Cranswick – it creates a tamper-proof digital ledger on the origin and authenticity of items.
This traceability could be combined with other innovative initiatives. For instance, Waitrose’s 2016 ‘cow cam’ advert, which allowed people to see how its livestock were treated. The concept has since been mooted by several companies as a way to demonstrate greater transparency to shoppers that want to make more informed purchasing decisions.
2. Get certified
Is it UK grown? Gluten free? Sustainably sourced? All these things are important to consumers, and certifying products properly can be a “useful shorthand storytelling tool,” according to the report.
The downside to this is that the diversity of schemes in the market at the moment may result in confusion and a loss of trust. A Which? survey found that seven out of 10 people would pay more attention to the environmental impact of their food if labels were “clearer and more meaningful.”
As a rather striking example of this, Sainsbury’s was reprimanded last month by the Advertising Standards Agency for its Fairly Traded stamp, which was said to be too similar to the more widely recognised, third-party Fairtrade, misleading shoppers about the nature of the certification.
3. Collaboration is key
Producers and retailers should join forces to integrate the food supply chain, building “collective transparency.”
This could take the form of committing to purchase a whole crop from a producer by buyers and manufacturers, regardless if it meets the set standards – in other words, more companies need to get on board with wonky fruit and veg, or find ways to make sure ‘imperfect’ specimens aren’t simply ploughed back into the land.
It could also involve “cross-sector partnerships” like the Blue Number Initiative, which produces a register of farms and growers to aid traceability, or the Global Open Data for Agriculture and nutrition, which wants to make agricultural and nutritional data more accessible for all.