August 19 2021

From field to fork: The Importance of Transparency for the Food & Beverage Industry

Photo by emy on Unsplash

In short; transparency is accountability. From a business perspective, it is being as honest, and open about internal operations and processes with the customers and consumers. Further than this, “transparency can be a potent strategic tool to build consumer trust and loyalty. It is a true consumer benefit.” (4)
A demand from the consumer for businesses to act more transparently has arisen and taken centre stage for the last few decades. Consumers, and businesses both want to know more about the companies they collaborate and consume from. This change has evolved in synchrony with a focus towards sustainable, conscious consumption. Consumers want to buy from companies who have a similar ethical standpoint.
The effects of this demand is obvious, and trends such as plant-based meal options and vegan products are clear evidence of this. The consumer speaks, businesses listen and adapt their values to cater to their audience.
According to research, six in 10 global consumers are interested in learning more about where foods come from (1), which means it is more vital than ever for the food and beverage industry to take notes and work in ways that effectively communicate this honesty and accountability to the end consumer.
Accurate labelling of ingredients and additives, allergen information and nutritional information are all becoming increasingly important, and this is driving transparency even further.

Why is it important?

Various scandals have been noted in the past, and these scandals have a huge impact on companies involved. Consumers speak with their pound, and with social media, scandals can be exposed more easily than ever and boycotts can reach more people than ever before.
For example, in 2015 “Nestlé looked into some of its seafood suppliers in Thailand, it uncovered brutal and largely unregulated working conditions.” (2) A year later, it was revealed that John West used aggregated fishing methods to catch their fish. “This resulted in an enormous amount of bycatch, and the exposure resulted in Greenpeace announcing a campaign to boycott the company.” (3)
There are various other drivers for the need for improved transparency; Health conscious consumption, a focus on sustainability and ethical practices are other key factors fuelling the movement.

Consumer demands

Consumers nowadays are seeking more personal relationships with the companies and businesses they invest in, and branding is more important than ever. Consumers want to ensure their values resonate and match up with these companies, and plant-based, planet-conscious movements are continuously gaining popularity moving forward. This means “for brands and retailers, increasing transparency to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumers demands is key.” (1)

Hand in hand with traceability

You can’t talk about business transparency without mentioned traceability. In order to be clear and open about internal operations, businesses need to first understand their supply chain networks, with clear knowledge of where their ingredients and produce are sourced from, how they are acquired, processed and transported.
Traceability is slightly more complex, as it usually involves improved communication throughout chains and between various businesses to ensure each product’s ingredients can be traced back to its source.
A growing emphasis on transparency means 2 things:
1. Businesses will rethink their sourcing and internal processes, given that they must be more clear and honest with the consumer
2. They will build relationships with collaborating businesses (suppliers/distributors etc.) to ensure they can promise sustainable/ethical practices to their own customers. This will inevitably lead to better communication and stronger bonds throughout the procurement process.

How is technology enabling greater transparency?

From the perspective of the end consumer, technology has empowered them with the ability to quickly and easily dive in to each product’s origins, ingredients, allergen information and much more.
Armed with a smartphone, consumers can now get instant access to information that was once very unclear, but data speaks for itself, and this has catapulted forward the accessibility to product and company information.
From barcode scanning on packaging, to a simple Google search to read up on companies and their stance, technology has both enabled and encouraged greater transparency.
From a business perspective, companies can now have more visibility than ever over both their internal operations and that of their collaborators.
Overall, these developments have placed more pressure than ever on companies to act sustainably and ethically, and this need for honesty and visibility shows no sign of slowing down as we move forward - “Communicating your business’ stance on sustainability and health will be the key boosting loyalty – and, in turn, sales.” (4)
Want more? Then read a recent article we published on “How Consumers are pushing Supply Chains to work more Sustainably”
References
  1. www.specialityfoodmagazine.com. 2020. How brand transparency will drive sales in 2021 | Food & Drink | Speciality Food Magazine. [online] Available at: https://www.specialityfoodmagazine.com/food-and-drink/brand-transparency-will-drive-sales [Accessed 17 August 2021].
  2. www.newfoodmagazine.com. n.d. Transparency, food and the global supply chain. [online] Available at: https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/article/75651/transparency-food-and-the-global-supply-chain/ [Accessed 17 August 2021].
  3. Andrews, J., 2020. How Consumers are pushing Supply Chains to work more Sustainability. [online] routemagic.co.uk. Available at: https://routemagic.co.uk/blog/Consumer-Demand-Supply-Chain-Sustainability [Accessed 17 August 2021].
  4. Forbes.com. 2015. Why Transparency Should Matter to Food and Beverage Companies. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/thehartmangroup/2015/07/16/why-transparency-should-matter-to-food-and-beverage-companies/?sh=4b9b1cd85247 [Accessed 17 August 2021].

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