6 ways egg producers can win consumer’s trust

Consumers are going online to find information about what they eat, but are egg producers doing enough to ensure what they’re finding is accurate?

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G Baden, Freeimages.com
G Baden, Freeimages.com

Consumers are going online to find information about what they eat, but are egg producers doing enough to ensure what they’re finding is accurate?  

According to the Center for Food Integrity’s January 2016 consumer research report, 27 percent of consumers say the internet is their primary source for information. Online, the industry-wide promotion group, the American Egg Board, promotes the egg in general but not the individual producers. Many egg producers have little if any consumer-facing presence due to often non-existent interaction between the egg farmer and the shopper buying a carton at the supermarket.

Meanwhile, groups actively trying to change the egg industry are prolific online, reaching out to consumers through websites, social media accounts, articles published on popular websites and constant stream of comments in national and local press. Activist groups are winning credibility with consumers and successfully influencing the future of the egg industry. Causes they champion like cage-free eggs are steadily becoming more mainstream.

CFI research shows that consumers are mistrustful of the entities that represent the food industry, like food companies, restaurants and grocers, but they trust the farmers themselves. Consumers also confess to knowing little about agriculture but show a strong desire to learn more. This shows individual farms and egg companies can take a more active role in communicating directly with consumers to earn credibility and build long-term buying habits.

WATT Global Media spoke with two experts who recently spoke at the UEP’s annual meeting in Miami Beach, Florida. Those experts are Vance Crowe, director of millennial engagement, for agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto, and Bob Langert, president of Mainstream Sustainability L.L.C., a consultancy firm. Langert, who retired from McDonalds Corp. in March 2015, was formerly the fast food giant’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

1. Embrace the new world

Langert said the best way for egg producers to get on the front-foot with consumers is to be progressive. Producers, he said, need to embrace the new consumer that wants to know more about their food and where it comes from and consider it a positive force in the future of their business.

Egg producers need to swallow the pill on cage-free and move on, he said. Rather than resisting change, the egg industry should strive to make its cage-free products the best it can. The industry already has a great product, Langert said, and it is fully capable of turning what many see as a negative situation into a positive opportunity.

2. Build a question and answer channel for consumers

Crowe said Monsanto uses a website – discover.monsanto.com – to allow people to directly ask questions about the company, its work, and genetically modified organisms in general.

The service is both a research resource and a way to influence the conversation through direct responses. The site collects data on questions to show Monsanto what’s generally on the consumer’s mind and how that’s changed over time. Crowe said questions are becoming more nuanced as consumers learn more from previous question and answers.

3. Unify and work together with serious NGOs

Langert said egg producers should seek out reasonable, serious non-governmental partners they can work with to prove they are serious about issues consumers are concerned with like sustainability, food safety and animal welfare. Some organizations want to dismantle animal agriculture, but, he said, there are plenty of serious, reasonable organizations that can help with these issues.

Companies should seek out reputable organizations with demanding standards, however. Working with credible non-governmental organizations can seriously improve business practices consumers care about and help a company gain moral standing on a controversial issue. Consumer research shows non-governmental organizations are well trusted by consumers, too.

4. Encourage employees to join the conversation online or in person

Crowe said the company is now encouraging its employees to speak up about what they do and be willing to answer questions frankly and honestly. People want answers about the industry, and no one knows more or has more passion that the people who form its backbone.

Crowe said speaking directly with consumers – face to face or online – and generally being more open is a great first step for building greater transparency and credibility with consumers. Too often, he said, Monsanto was speaking only with members of its own community and not spreading its message to the broader population. The company now tries to send its representatives to more public forums to broaden its perspective and reception.

5. Communicate with targeted audiences

Crowe said speaking with the right non-traditional media channels can help share a message and gain the attention of the right groups of people. Food-focused blogs and podcasts can be a great way to target the message and build trust with the people who care most about the issue. 

6. Invest in people who can help build trust

Both Crowe and Langert said companies need to commit to being more transparent and ultimately invest in people who can champion the cause. Crowe said egg producers should always look for hidden talent in their company first. But if the people aren’t there to maintain a digital and personal line of communication between the company and the consumer, it’s essential to hire staff or an outside firm that can.

 

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