Consumer trust even more crucial to food companies in ’09

Posted by James Ferre on 2nd March 2009

Trust is seen as the critical issue of 2009 by market research firm Mintel, particularly in America – where financial issues have helped lead to a slowdown here in Australia. The research suggests that trust goes far beyond the financial system and extends to food companies looking for their share of the consumer dollar.

“In the first two months of 2009, we’ve already seen the dire need to rebuild trust in America,” Joan Holleran, Director of Research at Mintel, explained. “From government changes to food safety to struggling financial institutions, the American public’s trust has been broken repeatedly in recent months. Rebuilding this trust is crucial for business success, consumer confidence and overall economic recovery.”

Ms Holleran believes institutions will need to work much harder to gain people’s trust this year. “Many Americans had their confidence dashed by failed expectations, and they’re also spending less because of the recession. Companies need to develop trusting, honest relationships so they can get shoppers’ precious dollars,” she advised.

In November 2008, Mintel forecasted “Rebuilding Trust” as a key trend for 2009. Now as the year starts to unfold, the market research leader identifies different areas where trust-building will be crucial, including:

Food Safety: The recent peanut butter safety scare has made many people wary of even the most common food products. Even foods that were traditionally viewed as “safe,” including organic and kosher, are going to be viewed in a new light, says Mintel. While Mintel research shows 34% of kosher food buyers purchase for food safety reasons, the recent demise of kosher processors Agriprocessors and Peanut Corporation of America indicates kosher certification doesn’t guarantee food safety.

Green: Though green markets have grown quickly, reduced consumer spending and doubt over corporate “greenwashing” may impact sales in the future. “In a recent survey, three in five respondents said they were skeptical over many companies’ green marketing claims,” Ms Holleran said. “Green manufacturers need to clarify their environmental efforts and communicate their eco-effects, so shoppers can trust that they’re truly benefiting the environment.”