Consumer perceptions of food industry transparency

March 29, 2016

Only one-third of consumers think the agriculture community and food companies are transparent, according to new research from Sullivan Higdon & Sink FoodThink. The research appears in “Evolving Trust in the Food Industry,” a white paper with insights into Americans’ knowledge and trust of the food industry and how those perceptions have changed from 2012 to present.

“Food marketers should know that consumer perceptions of transparency in the food industry are consistently improving but there is plenty of room to grow,” said Erika Chance, senior FoodThink researcher. “The good news is that consumers are turning to food companies and grocers for more information because they do have an interest in learning more about the food they eat.”

People learn about their food from a number of different sources—and that number is growing every day. Food companies and manufacturers, bloggers and social media, and grocery and food retailers have all seen significant increases in consumer trust since 2012. In fact, the research shows that 60% of consumers think farmers and ranchers are trustworthy, making them one of the most trusted sources for information on food production. In addition, trust in food companies increased 15 percentage points from 2012.

While the numbers show that consumers are seemingly more trusting of food manufacturers and farmers, just 37% of consumers somewhat or strongly agree that the agriculture community is transparent and only 34% agree that food companies are transparent about how food is produced. However, these numbers are an improvement from 2012, when only 22% and 19% agreed that the agricultural community and food companies, respectively, are transparent.

Increasing media attention and dialogue about food production, and the food industry’s willingness to be more open about its production practices, have likely caused this increase in perceived transparency. In turn, this provides consumers the knowledge to have definite opinions on the degree of industry transparency.

“Consumers today are very perceptive and have access to more information than ever. Many are taking the initiative to read up on the issues facing food production,” said Chance. “It’s important for the industry to be proactive in their efforts to help educate the public because they have the power to continue to build that trust.”

Press release

White paper