Talking Tech and Transparency in the Food Industry: The Never-Ending Journey Forward

March 21, 2018

The road to transparency in the food industry is not a destination; it’s a never-ending journey for companies and consumers.

As I get ready to take part in a panel on supply chain transparency at Future Food-Tech in San Francisco later this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what our clients, and the food industry in general, are talking about: how to effectively communicate with consumers in this era of food technology innovation. We recently penned a white paper that digs into the topic, and I’ll be sharing more about this delicate communication balance at the conference.

The food industry, perhaps more than any other consumer sector, is built molecule by molecule on trust. And the harder it is for consumers to access and understand the information they want about their food, the less likely they are to trust the source.

Consumers want a new relationship with food. They want to know what’s in their food, how it gets there, how the people who make it are treated, and how food companies behave with regards to nature and in the community. Every ingredient and process used to make food and beverages, regardless of its cultivation and production method, is being questioned.

As marketers, we have to find the right balance of providing information consumers actually understand via the appropriate access points to get it in their hands how and when they want it.

Looking ahead, finding that balance will be an unquestionably foggy journey filled with uncertainties and questions – for both marketers and consumers. We haven’t been down this road before. We don’t know what we don’t know.

The scientific possibilities and the power of technology to impact our food system are evolving every day. And, as marketers, we are not entirely sure if consumers are prepared to embrace all that is possible. We are definitely on this journey together; a journey that has no near end.

As we press forward, we need to do so with a bit of caution. There are hazards we cannot see. Potholes, twists, turns, and traps along the way. That cannot deter us. Instead, these challenges are opportunities to explore and utilize to help build a path forward TOGETHER with consumers. As essential stakeholders in the food ecosystem, brands must embrace their consumers as partners, not just target audiences.

In 2018, Ketchum’s Food & Beverage Practice will be conducting a series of studies to better identify the guardrails for communicating and marketing in this era of unprecedented innovation and transparency. One thing we know for certain, the old marketing playbook is failing – and a new playbook is being written as we speak.

Ketchum has been at the forefront of understanding these changes since the publication of our seminal research series, Food 2020, in 2008, and will continue to write and share the next chapters in the food communications playbook with our clients and the food community.

We look forward to sharing the first wave of insights coming from our studies at Future Food-Tech where we explore “Avoiding the Transparency Trap” during the “Three Perspectives on Delivering Supply Chain Transparency” panel.  Join us, or request a copy of our white paper on the topic.

Linda has 25+ years of branded and commodity food experience leading marketing communications programs, CEO and corporate counsel, reputation management, issues and crisis management, reputation management and shareholder relations programs.