Consumer care is a new priority for food science

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers want reassure about food and drink product safety
Consumers want reassure about food and drink product safety

Related tags Campden bri Food and drink

The food industry must engage more with consumers if it is to reassure them about what it does and get their buy-in for new advances in science and technology, according to a new survey published by research group Campden BRI on January 6.

This ‘consumer care’ finding, is the most significant change from previous surveys, which are conducted to identify priorities for the industry among Campden BRI member companies and to help shape its activities over a three to five year time-frame.

“The biggest change since the last consultation has been under the heading of safeguarding consumer welfare; probably on the back of the food fraud issue and on the back of the diet and health issue,”​ said Campden BRI director general Steven Walker.

“We need to be far more engaged with consumers about what are their concerns. Three years ago that would have been pretty minor.”

Consumer care issues

The need to reassure people about product safety throughout the supply chain, was probably the number one issue identified by the survey, said Walker. Next was the need to safeguard consumer welfare around issues such as diet and health. The third biggest issue, which marked a change from three years ago, was the skills shortage prevalent across the sector.

“The big message here is that the science and technology community within the food and drink industry are recognising that this is part of the responsibility that is required; not something that should exist outside science and technology, which is where we were several years ago,”​ said Walker.

He stressed that restoration of consumer confidence and consumer trust needed to be “sustainable”​ and “not at any cost”​. “If we are not careful, we will drive ourselves out of business,”​ he said.

The survey involved Campden BRI’s 13 member interest groups, which have a collective membership of over 3,000 industrialists, overseen by its scientific and technical committee, and an online survey of 2,400 member companies in 75 countries. Findings from these sources were combined with Campden’s own in-house intelligence.

Drivers for change

The consultation asked for feedback in four areas, covering primary production, raw materials and ingredients; manufacturing and the supply chain; products and packaging; and food and drink and the consumer. Within each of these, Campden BRI identified six drivers for change, which covered: safety; quality and value; nutrition, health and wellbeing; resilience and efficiency; the environment and sustainability; and skills and knowledge. Considered together, these formed a matrix of needs.

The production, preservation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of food and drink rely heavily on science and technology. The results of the survey map out the food and drink supply chain needs that can be addressed through innovations in science, technology and their application.

While some of these areas identified were pre-competitive, others were closer to the market. In all cases, however, it was about identifying needs rather than offering solutions, said Walker.

The final version of the ‘Innovation needs 2015’ document is now available from its own mini-website​ or a pdf is available by automated e-mail response from nhgb@pnzcqraoev.pb.hx​ with the subject line: send innovation 2015

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