Consumer trust has been declining in the U.S. for two decades.1 Trust in food has been a casualty of this trend – new FoodThink data reveals that just over one-half of consumers (52%) trust the food industry to do the right thing, and almost one-quarter (24%) actively distrust it.2
Some food categories, companies and institutions fair well in the trust stakes, while others require significant commitments to improving trust in order to turn perceptions around. The good news is it is possible.
In its latest research study of 2,123 consumers, FoodThink has uncovered four building blocks that drive consumer trust in a food brand. These building blocks pave the way to a long-term, trusting relationship between consumer and brand.2
The first, Purpose, signals a brand’s “why” – its reason for being, beyond making a profit. Food brands cannot afford to underestimate the level of importance consumers place on finding a brand that aligns with their values. Alignment with the brand’s purpose could be the final decision maker between your brand and the competition. The reason for this is rooted in social theory – a common goal is the foundation of what is known as emotional trust. Emotional trust is trust that goes beyond trust in basic competencies and yields a connection that runs a lot deeper and can withstand a lot more.
Next comes Authenticity. Living authentically means connecting your purpose to your thoughts, words and deeds. Having a purpose is a great start, but it must be lived authentically to resonate with consumers.
Authenticity helps establish integrity, which is a key component of a trusting relationship. When there are inconsistencies between what a brand says and what it does, consumers may reject it in favor of a brand that is true to its word.
Competency, though third on the list, lies at the root of all consumer trust. It is the foundation of functional trust – the basic trust in a brand’s capabilities. Consumers demand competency. It is a table stake, and unless competency is proven consistently through quality, safety or other established criteria, purpose and authenticity won’t matter much. Without faith in what a brand or company can deliver – i.e., when functional trust is missing – there is little room for anything else to grow.
The final and most important building block is Transparency. Almost three-quarters of consumers (73%) say “Being transparent and not trying to hide information” is extremely or very important in helping them know if a food brand is trustworthy.2 However, while consumers rate it the highest, transparency should by no means be the only thing brands focus on. Transparency will serve a brand well only if it shines a light on purpose, authenticity and competency. It is the combination of all four that moves consumers along the spectrum of trust from transaction-based functional trust to the coveted, relationship-based emotional trust.
To learn more about PACT, and to hear what it sounds like in consumers’ own words, download the latest FoodThink white paper: Trust in Food. Creating Trust in an Era of Skepticism.
1. Edelman Trust Barometer 2019, Gallup longitudinal study of confidence in US Institutions.
2. FoodThink from Signal Theory, 2018.