The IGD ShopperVista research indicated that more than half of all those surveyed, 56%, wanted to know more about where their food comes from in the wake of the horsemeat debacle. That represented a huge increase the 34% responding to the same question in 2011.
Currently, only 12% said they felt they knew “quite a lot” about the origin of their food. “We have a great opportunity to close that gap and expectations are already high,” said IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch, addressing 650 industry leaders at the London conference today (October 8).
“Eight in 10 shoppers believe that food and grocery companies should know where every single ingredient comes from.”
Citing the IGD survey, she said six in 10 shoppers trusted food and grocery companies to do the right thing most of the time, but 73% thought they only did the right thing when forced to by law or when it was in their own interests.
"I've recently been out and about with shoppers and one person put it this way: 'Everyone's out to make a profit ... and if there's a loophole, they'll exploit it. This is the way of the world.'"
Revolution in transparency needed
The food and consumer goods industry had never been under more scrutiny, she said. A revolution in transparency and traceability was needed to build trust to higher levels than before the horsemeat contamination incident, which sparked controversy at the beginning of this year.
"A 17th Century bishop ... by the name of Joseph Hall ... said that 'a reputation once broken may possibly be repaired ... but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was'.
“Trust has been picking up since horsemeat, but we’re under more scrutiny than ever,” said Denney-Finch.
“It’s vital that we now lead a revolution in transparency and traceability. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but it’s the biggest opportunity of a generation.”
Investment in the future
Traceability and transparency should not be seen as overheads, but rather as an investment in the future, she added.
“Whenever we’re transparent it shows that we are confident. As we should be – what we sell has never been safer, more reliable, better quality or better value.
“I’ve visited hundreds of farms, factories, distribution centres and stores around the world, so I know first-hand. The people and companies with integrity will prevail.”
Meanwhile, Owen Paterson, environment secretary, told our sister magazine Food Manufacture that the horsemeat crisis had benefited the food industry in sparking consumers’ interest in local supply chains and product assurance.