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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Reestablishing Trust in the Food Industry

Source: www.aei-ideas.org
Communications issues and regaining trust in the food industry were hot topics at Hungry for Change 2, a conference organised by the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), which we attended last week. 

In a session on biodiversity, panellists commented that the food industry still considers biodiversity preservation as a ‘burden in the budget’ and that consumers still do not fully understand the benefits either.  In another session, we learned that 90% of EU consumers do not feel sufficiently well-informed about pesticide residues, one of Europe’s biggest consumer issues – a staggering figure.

So how can the food industry improve external communications and regain trust? 

Mella Frewen, director of trade association FoodDrinkEurope, added that the food industry is not always the best messenger for its messages as consumers often feel it has vested interests.  Given that EU citizens generally do not rely on information coming only from one source, it is key to involve stakeholders, added ECPA food stream lead Rüdiger Schaub.

Hans Friedrich, Regional Director of the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) argued that in the case of biodiversity, multiple communications strategies need to be designed ones that break down the complexity of food versus biodiversity issues, deliver positive key messages and define values, costs and benefits for all the stakeholders involved.

The openness of the debate and willingness of the speakers to engage in difficult issues on the day was encouraging. ECPA President Vincent Gros recognised that although change has been occurring within the industry, for a shift to really occur the change will have to be systemic and will take time. It will be interesting to see how these issues progress in the next few years – and whether the food industry’s ‘mindset reset’ is here to stay.

Blog by Bárbara Mendes-Jorge and Zoe Volioti

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