How Supply Chain Transparency Can Make Or Break Your Food Business

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People in the world today are more conscious than ever regarding the way they select their food. The factors that conscious consumers consider before making a purchase can include the way farm animals are treated, whether goods are traded fairly, how ethical the manufacturer is, and if the business is involved in sustainable practices. They also want to know that what they’re buying is, in fact, real food with actual nutritional value.

Our gardens today are very different from the gardens our ancestors once grew. For example, the vitamin and mineral content found in our fruits and vegetables depends entirely on the soil it’s grown in. If the soil is depleted (and most soil is), the produce will be depleted, too. Produce without nutritional content might taste good, but it’s not what nature intended for our bodies. This is just one reason more people are demanding to know the source of their food.

With more fast food being exposed as containing toxic chemicals – even in the wrappers – people are returning to nature for their food. But not everyone can grow their own garden, so they trust other people (like grocery stores) to produce it for them.

People want sustainable food

The Socially Conscious Consumer Trends report noted that in 2011, according to Mintel, there were 1,262 new food and beverage products introduced globally that made specific reference to sustainability in their product descriptions. This number indicates a rising demand for sustainable products since just five years prior, there were only 132 new products that referenced sustainability.

People also want supply chain transparency

According to Nielson, 43 percent of people surveyed said consuming minimally processed non-GMO foods are important to them. And a third of people surveyed said sustainably sourced, organic ingredients play an important role in their purchasing decisions.

Thanks to these surveys, it’s exceedingly clear where people’s priorities are concerning food – they want to know exactly where their food comes from and how it’s produced. It’s no wonder more restaurants and grocery stores are starting to serve the public from a platform of transparency regarding their supply chain.

For example, Whole Foods Market is diving right into creating supply chain transparency for the consumer’s benefit with a program called Responsibly Grown. Officially launched in 2014, this program was created with the FoodLogiQ software in order to assess growing practices that impact the health of humans, as well as the environment by creating a rating system for suppliers that is made available to the public.

Despite the complaints some people have about Whole Foods being over priced, they’ve managed to stay in business for quite some time. Adding supply chain transparency seems to be making an even bigger impact on people’s food buying decisions.

Transparency is a key to success

It’s no secret that the food industry is a hard business to be in whether you’re a producer, a supplier, a restaurant, or even a grocery store. Consumers want transparency from top to bottom; the transparency they expect is more than just knowing if their food has been genetically modified.

Consumers know that how a company behaves is a reflection of their values. And if they’re engaging in unethical practices just to make a quick buck, they’re not going to trust that company. When consumers can’t trust the companies they buy from, it can result in suspicion and even fear. And the more hands involved in the supply chain, the harder it is for companies to stay on top of it. But consumers still expect their favorite brands to take more responsibility in ensuring the quality and safety of what they sell.

That’s precisely why The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) was created – to increase trust by increasing transparency. And the CFI discovered something huge. During a focus group, they asked the participants to react to the statement that people been unknowingly consuming GMO food since 1996 – that’s 20 years – without any reports of ill health effects. Regardless, they were not pleased.

One participant stated, “This is beyond scary to me. I feel like I’ve been deceived … why weren’t they providing more information all along about what I’m eating?”

How transparent is your food business?

According to DietInsight.org, “It stands to reason that if you are operating a business in the food industry, your best opportunity to build trust with your customers is by meeting or exceeding their expectations when it comes to the source of your food.”

The cost of doing business transparently might be a little higher, but it’s always worth it because that’s what people want and expect. And the future of food production belongs to the companies who can meet the demands of a growing number of conscious consumers who won’t accept anything less.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.