Reaching any information about anything is getting much easier and fast day by day. On one hand, this situation creates consumer demand for being informed by companies, on the other hand, the misinformation effect harms the trust relationship between consumers and brands, and companies become obliged to make more statements about their processes and be transparent. People are conscious and curious while shopping, especially for their foods; that’s why you should know the new trending terms food traceability and food transparency.
What is food transparency? It is the consumers’ expectation to receive information about how safe, sustainable, and ethical are the production processes of the food they buy. And in their eyes, the producers, distributors, and retailers all have the responsibility of providing this information to them. Because in the evolving world, transparency is not an option, but a necessity.
So, why and how food transparency became a necessity? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million consumers get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. Besides, given recent and well-publicized food scares and data scandals, some consumers have lost trust in both private and public institutions and large central authorities. Today, especially after events like the Covid-19 pandemic, rapidly increasing concerns for the ecologic crisis, and global movements for workers’ rights, people care more and more about sustainability, trustworthiness, and ethics in every part of their lives. They have doubts about companies’ words on how much their sourcing is sustainable and ethical, they expect real actions from companies to prove their promises. If you want to build trust with your customers, you need to show your processes transparently to them even before they ask for them. Today, 93% of consumers say it’s important for brands and manufacturers to provide detailed information about what is in food and how it’s made.
After talking about transparency broadly, let us focus on the transparency concept in agriculture. Recently, the meaning of consuming fruits and vegetables has changed. As consumers become aware of the fresh food production processes including GMOs and pesticides, labeling for fruits and vegetables became essential. Organic nutrition was a trend, however, today it is a concept that every consumer knows and cares about. As we mentioned before, environmental concerns and human rights are important issues for consumers while choosing brands, and this situation is valid also for the fruit and vegetable industry. Most consumers want to know where the food comes from and the environment it was raised in, whether that was cage-free, grass-fed, organic, treated with GMOs, or antibiotics. They also want to know if the farmers you work with are local, paid well, and treated fairly. 48% of Americans say they plan to change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact, and another 67% say they want to know everything that goes into the food they buy.
However, labeled packages are not enough to meet this demand anymore; because people don’t trust the labeling. Marketing was focused on telling ‘a beautiful story’ to the consumers, to make them want to buy into the brand. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of consumers feeling abused by the brands, and not trusting claims that are made about products. They fear that labels can be misguiding and they can’t be sure of the details of the processes only by one label. Also, they don’t want to do extra research about brands, markets, and producers that they buy food from. In the digital world, all information now is one click away, and consumers expect this accessibility from brands. So, what is the easiest way to show all the information from your production processes such as farmer, facility, environmental conditions, pesticide analysis, certificates, and so on? The answer is using QR code technology.
A producer or retailer can write all the information they want to share with their consumers on the packages, but probably they will be too small to read. A market can advertise to tell that it chooses the best brands and products in the meaning of sustainability, quality, and ethics by showing their production processes; but again, probably there will be too many commercials. Consumers are tired of traditional marketing and it is not enough to gain their trust. So, with QR codes, remove the borders and let the customers directly see all the information only by scanning the codes on the packages with their smartphones.
There is an interesting research result about QR codes on packages; digitally certified milk brand Prospérité showed that 87% of people had an increased satisfaction level with the brand regardless of whether they had scanned the QR code. Even if consumers don’t scan the codes every time they see them, knowing that a brand using QR codes to be transparent increases their trust for that brand.
The QR code technology for transparency is scalable and cost-effective. With a small amount of investment, the brand image and trustworthiness levels up. Besides being transparent and authentic, it creates a technological edge over competitors. Companies have direct interactions with consumers and as a result, they can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
ForFarming’s Trusty platform provides an easy-to-use and affordable solution for fruit and vegetable producers, distributers, and retailers to meet food transparency demand. It is needed to log the producer, facility, and growing conditions information, certificates, and pesticide analysis reports in the platform. Users can choose additional information to show and can personalize web design. The rest is much easier; printing the QR codes on the packages, and letting customers scan them. Besides, users can collect feedback from consumers through the application. Being transparent by QR code technology is one of the easiest ways of marketing the brand and strengthening trust between the brand and the consumers.
Food transparency seems like a trend, for now, however, by the time consumers get more and more conscious about their food it will become an essential part of the food industry.