Consumer demand for transparency to disrupt food sector, report finds

Public trust in the food sector has eroded to an "all-time low", with a new report commissioned by premium food supplier Cranswick warning that heightened consumer demand for increased transparency looks set to disrupt the sector.

The report, published in association with sustainability consultants Veris Strategies, warns that businesses will have to demonstrate greater accountability across the entirety of their supply chains to provide assurances on food hygiene, ethics and sustainability standards as consumer demand for real-time information grows.

An “open kitchen” approach to information access, driven by smartphones and social media, will increase consumer demand on sustainability practices within supply chains, with customers more likely to question brand actions unless traceability is improved.

Cranswick’s group commercial director Jim Brisby said: “Sustainability, provenance and health are now key issues for shoppers. The whole food supply chain needs to be more visible, so people can reconnect with where their food comes from.

“We fully intend to be at the forefront of driving this agenda forward. This report has informed our future direction on transparency and provenance, and will continue to shape our own sustainability policy, Second Nature. I hope others will follow our lead and join us on this journey.”

Earlier this year, UK food regulators launched a nationwide review of the meat industry, after several major supermarkets cancelled order with 2 Sisters following a joint investigation from undercover reporters at The Guardian and ITN that exposed poor hygiene practices and breaches of food safety legislation.

According to the report, greater transparency is required to enable businesses to address sustainability and hygiene concerns as they arise, reducing the risk of another 2 Sisters case emerging.

Blockchain opportunities

New technologies like blockchain – a digital ledger that creates a verifiable and irrefutable audit trail that can be used for any transaction – are recommended in the report to drive transparency. Elsewhere, certification labels can also provide assurances for consumers, provided they aren’t overloaded with images and logos.

Consumers will demand more access to data, via smartphones and social media as part of the ‘open kitchen’ approach, and will focus more on verified numbers rather than storytelling techniques, according to the report.

Commenting on the report, Cranswick’s chief executive Adam Couch said: “We already invest heavily in integrated supply chains to offer full traceability from farm to fork and insist on high standards pertaining to ethics and animal welfare.

“As a company we will continue to build on these commitments, but if we are to help futureproof the entire industry, we will have to work with others. To do this, we need to engage and raise awareness of the issue, which is why we have teamed up with Veris Strategies to produce this report.”

Cranswick recently announced plans to move to 100% renewables and remove all food waste from its operations by 2030. As part of the zero-waste commitment, Cranswick will work alongside WRAP’s Courtauld 2025 Commitment, which sets signatories a voluntary goal to collectively report and reduce food waste and greenhouse gas emissions by 20% across the sector.

The company has also waded into the fight against plastics, pledging to use 100% recyclable and sustainable sourced packaging by 2025. The business has also committed to reduce its plastics use by 50% by 2025.

Matt Mace

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