A global study by a logistics technology firm shows that only 20% of consumers trust the food industry in food traceability.
Digitalization is an important factor in ensuring food safety. Given the increased focus on health and wellness in the current pandemic, both consumers and industry decision-makers are showing a great level of interest in the source, quality and safety of their food.
With digital technologies in place, the provenance of food supplies can be tracked from farm to fork.
However, a disconnect exists between what consumers believe and what industry decision-makers think. In a survey by industrial logistics technology firm Zebra almost seven in 10 (69%) decision-makers said the industry was prepared to manage food traceability and transparency, but only 35% of consumers agreed.
Furthermore, only 13% of consumers felt the industry was extremely prepared today to manage food traceability and provide transparency about how food travels through the supply chain; whereas 27% of decision-makers reported feeling this way.
Unfortunately, this is not just a short-term challenge as approximately half (51%) of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers said meeting consumer expectations will remain a challenge in five years.
Said Fang-How Lim, Regional Director, Zebra Technologies (Southeast Asia): “The F&B industry in Southeast Asia is already taking measures to ensure more transparency in the supply chain. However, our study found that a lot more work still needs to be done in order to increase consumer confidence and improve food traceability in this region. Due to the digital world we live in today, businesses have more information available to them. They should leverage this and provide consumers access to the same information, which in turn can increase consumers’ faith in their food sources.”
- 93% of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers believed their companies had an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling and management of food.
- Nearly 73% of consumers listed illness and deaths caused by contamination as their biggest concern for risks posed by the food supply chain.
- 89% of industry decision-makers believed investments in traceability-focused solutions would provide their companies with a competitive advantage.
- Only 15% of surveyed consumers completely trusted food and beverage distributors to ensure that food and beverages are safe for public consumption.
- More than 62% of consumers polled listed a food-borne outbreak as their top concern for food-related issues.
- Approximately half (53%) of surveyed industry decision-makers completely agreed their companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling and management of food—the lowest of any region.
- Almost 87% consumers cited restaurant kitchen staff hygiene as their top concern for food-related issues.
- 97% of surveyed industry decision-makers believed investing in food safety and traceability technology can provide their companies with a competitive edge.
- 79% of consumers responded that having access to accurate information on where their food came from was important to them.
- The average trust level in companies and brands to ensure food and beverages are safe for public consumption was two-and-a-half times higher in industry decision-makers (45%) than consumers (18%).
- 91% of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers believed their companies have an important role in implementing food safety solutions.
- More 64% of consumers cited fear of foodborne illness/disease as their primary reason for wanting more information about their food source.
Overall, consumers in the study reported their top food safety concerns to include restaurant kitchen and wait-staff hygiene, food-borne outbreaks, illness from contaminated food, and food and beverage recalls. They were quite unforgiving if they experienced a food incident, as approximately six in 10 reportedly would never eat at a restaurant again if they contracted a food-borne illness or food poisoning.
Slightly more than 80% of surveyed consumers said companies have an important role to play in implementing food safety solutions and an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling of their food. Some 70% of the consumers said it is important to know how their food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared, and handled, while 69% agreed knowing how their food is sourced was also important.
Using tech for food safety management
One bright spot identified in the research is the role that technology can play in closing short- and long-term gaps between consumers and the food industry.
A majority (90%) of decision-makers acknowledged that investments in traceability-focused solutions will provide them with a competitive advantage by enabling them to meet the expectations of consumers. When asked about the top benefits that technology-based track and trace solutions would provide, nearly six in 10 decision-makers cited risk reductions with proper handling, transportation and storage and tracking product perishability. Also, 41% of industry decision-makers reported RFID tags improve food traceability within the supply chain more than any other technology, yet only 31% currently used them within their own organizations.
Other tech such as mobile computers, tablet computers, mobile barcode label printers, scanners and specialty labels and tags can also be key enablers in winning consumer trust and delivering more transparent information to consumers.
Approximately 90% of surveyed industry decision-makers expected to use rugged handheld mobile computers with scanners, barcode scanners and mobile barcode label printers within the next five years to digitally-manage and track food products and related information.