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Close the Trust Gap with “Competitive” Food Safety

Close the Trust Gap with “Competitive” Food Safety

It often is said that food safety is a non-competitive aspect of the food industry. That is exactly as it should be in relation to industry sharing of best practices for the protection of food and its consumers. But there is, in fact, a competitive nature to food safety that actually benefits businesses and consumers.

There are certain food safety issues that continue to occur no matter how many recalls they cause and how many best practices are shared – such as undeclared allergens. There also are food safety issues that newly evolve for which best practices are only developed after occurrence. Because of this, it remains critical for businesses to continue to share food safety information, and not hold any successful procedure, process, or practice secret to gain a competitive advantage.

But that doesn’t mean that you should not be promoting your food safety as an aspect of the quality of your brand. It does not mean that you cannot use your food safety expertise and application as a competitive marketing advantage with customers and consumers.  Your legal department is not going to let you talk about how much safer your food is than a competitor – nor should they!  But consumers do rely on past history of a company and what the company may say about their food safety programs.

People want to purchase brands they trust. According to a recent consumer survey report from Zebra:

  • Only about 20% of consumers are completely trusting of food businesses to ensure food safety.
  • More than 80% say the food industry has an important role in food safety – and is ethically responsible to ensure it.
  • 70% want to know how food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared, and handled.

So, how do you build consumer trust? How do you let consumers know you take your role in ensuring food safety seriously? How do they know of your safe manufacturing, preparation, and handling practices? … How does the consumer know your food is safe if you are not telling them?

Food businesses don’t think twice about promoting the quality of their products – in many cases, it’s right on the packaging. Why should food safety promotion be any different? It’s simply good business.

Food safety could be a part of what Packaging Strategies terms “romance copy” – including your food safety commitment as an aspect of why the product is special, why your brand should be selected instead of another. Food safety could be a full page on your website where you can provide much more detail on what you do during manufacturing, preparation, and handling to ensure food safety. Additionally, brief statements acknowledging your responsibility for and focus on food safety can be included in any sort of promotion you do on a particular product or your brand as a whole.

People want to work with people they trust. The more you build that trust, the more you will build brand loyalty, and the better you will be able to weather tough times when that trust is put to the test in a recall or other crisis event.  If you have a recall, you want consumers to see that it was “A bad day for a good company,” not that the recall was “Bound to happen given the low quality and attitude of the company.”

One caveat – don’t expect to wait until you have a recall or other crisis to start promoting your food safety. If you have not been telling consumers what you are doing to keep their food safe, they have no means by which to judge media or social media posts about what you do wrong that caused an incident, or to make a judgement call (which they will do) as to whether it was a one-time error or an overarching brand issue – two completely different perspectives in their decision as to whether or not to purchase your products in the future.

And any new claims you try to make at this time will ring hollow, seeming to be simply a childish “Have too!” response to a media/social media “Have not” post.

For industry sharing, food safety should not be a competitive factor. But when it comes to customer and consumer communication, food safety should be just as much a focus of your promotion as any other aspect of quality. Such “competition” not only builds trust in your brand, it can also help to build trust in the food industry as a whole. As Packaging Strategies states, “Close the trust gap: Information is power.” It’s a great piece of information with which to close this article.


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