by Matt Weik
If you’re reading this article, you’re either already eating a healthy well-balanced diet, or you are putting the wheels in motion to make the change and are learning everything you can. Either way, I’m sure you feel like you have been lied to a time or two (or ten) from the food industry. You go to the grocery store and you pick up and item you believe to be healthy because the packaging tells you so, just to get home and look at the nutrition panel and find out it’s all a bunch of lies. We’ve all been there. Because of this, 90% of consumers surveyed have felt lied to and betrayed from brands and expect the food industry to be truthful and provide them with healthy food options. Only 9% of the people surveyed across the globe felt that these companies had no responsibility when it comes to the health of the consumers (that 9% is probably made up of people in the food industry or those eating Twinkies every day who don’t care about their health).
Lacking trust, yet people continue to purchase
It’s unfortunate that so many people feel this way, but honestly, I believe it’s something we should all focus on and quite frankly be angry with the direction it’s heading. Brands are getting away with putting products on the shelves that are terrible for our health. And while they say their item is healthy and “low in” whatever, they are simply swapping macronutrients to fit their marketing. Generally, when something is said to be low in sugar, it normally has a higher fat content in it then. And when something is said to be low in sugar, it either has more fat present or artificial sweeteners. There’s no getting around it, and consumers who don’t know any better will buy these products thinking they are healthier and then wonder why they aren’t losing weight or could even be gaining weight using such products.
In a survey, there were ten sources listed. These sources ranged from celebrities, to food companies, health care professionals, and others. When it was all said and done, food companies were ranked one of the least trustworthy information sources. Think about that. It clearly sends a message to the food industry that they need to get their act together, and that no one believes the information they are putting out. It’s almost like playing politics where it’s hard to believe anything that comes out of their mouths simply because they are trying to push on all of us their personal agendas. It’s ruthless when you think about it.
The funniest thing from all of this is that even with a lack of trust, people continue to purchase products without reading nutrition labels. They walk up and down the grocery store aisles grabbing whatever looks good or has the best marketing on their packaging to make it appear that the item is “healthy” when more than likely it isn’t. So, what does this say about society? We aren’t helping our own cause when we are calling out the food industry for being deceptive, yet we continue to purchase certain items anyway. We can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths. Either we put up or we shut up—we can’t have it both ways.
The need to regain consumer trust
Once a consumer has lost the trust of a brand, it’s very hard to get them back. Brands who have food scares, recalls, or deceptive marketing that has caused illnesses get pounded from all angles—the FDA and the end consumer. These brands need to go back to the drawing board and this time around be focused on adding value and transparency to their products and marketing. Focus on the consumer and their health and well-being. Make it about them and how their product will exceed expectations and help improve their health.
One researcher mentioned, “Transparency and honesty are key. Increasingly consumers want to know the details of everything that’s in their favorite products and companies that can tell a convincing story about the provenance of ingredients will be rewarded. Often the healthiest ingredients are natural ones that consumers recognize, so a commitment to nutrition and clean and clear labeling go hand in hand. Companies can also benefit from developing innovative new ways to demonstrate their commitment to their customers’ health. Increasingly we’re seeing brands working with stakeholders on healthy eating campaigns, for example. Things won’t change overnight, but companies that are genuinely committed to their customers’ health—and prepared to be open and honest—will eventually build trust.”
When a brand focuses on the health and well-being of an individual is when they will begin to build a greater following and pull off the shelves. Too many brands are solely focused on sales and not adding value to the lives of those who purchase their product. This can be said for ALL industries, not just the food industry. When you can focus on your consumers needs and wants and have the ability to deliver on promises, is when brand loyalty will begin. Until brands in the food industry stop worrying about rubbing two pennies together, they will continue to feel 90% of the global population saying they aren’t trustworthy.
1.) Askew, Katy. “Food Makers Expected to Deliver on Health but Trust Lacking, Survey Finds.” NutraIngredients.com, 10 Aug. 2017.