Farmers will need to engage in conversations with consumers for the long term if they are to build trust in today’s food system.
That was among the messages delivered by Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. “Farmers are accustomed to fixing things in the next production cycle. Building trust with consumers has a longer horizon,” said Arnot, who presented findings from CFI’s 2014 consumer research into consumer skepticism, trending attitudes and trust-building transparency. The research was sponsored, in part, by AFBF.
The survey of 2,005 people looked into the concerns and attitudes of three groups of people: moms, millennials and foodies. Millennials are described as those ages 18-34. Foodies are people who are more likely to seek out information about food and food ingredients and to share information about cooking, food safety and nutrition.
CFI’s research showed that keeping healthy food affordable is a high priority for all three segments. Arnot called that finding “very good news” for those involved in food production when it comes to talking with consumers. “Everything you do can be talked about in that context,” he said. “If we address consumer concerns in that context, our messages will be better received.”
Arnot said that demonstrating shared values is more effective than demonstrating competence when it comes to building trust with consumers. “The goal is not to win a scientific argument, but to find meaningful and relevant ways to introduce science and technology. We’re really good at answering the ‘can we’ question. We need to get better at answering the ‘should we’ question. Educating the public is important, but it isn’t sufficient,” said Arnot.