Conference flags up food sector’s need to speak clearly and honestly

2016 ‘Food Matters Live’ involved retailers, nutrition experts and industry leaders coming together to share perspectives on the changes that are transforming the sector. A packed itinerary of seminars, conferences and events saw two clear themes emerge – trends that look set to shape the future of food in the UK and beyond…

Consumers feeling overfed and confused by food information

With the average consumer making 200 food decisions a day it’s no wonder they’re feeling overwhelmed when choosing what and where to eat!

The explosion of social media means vlogger audiences now match those of leading TV shows (Zoella’s subscribers nearly double the average viewership of Coronation Street). Meanwhile, smart kitchen appliances allow brands to reach consumers even at the point of food preparation, and every new food product is released with a range of claimed health benefits.

This leaves retailers battling against an increasing amount of noise to reach shoppers, with the majority struggling to impart the messages they really want to get across.

(‘Claims You Can Believe In’, Ronan Stafford, Canadean)

Consumer trust in the food industry at an all-time low

The conference highlighted several factors that are endangering the trust that consumers have in the food sector. Firstly, the proliferation of celebrity endorsements means audiences feel saturated by all the claims made by so many famous faces – diminishing the impact of any new campaign. Secondly, Brexit has muddied the waters around the use of GM and nanotechnology in our food chain – current EU laws potentially being overthrown. Thirdly, the explosion in social media has stoked consumers’ fears that, amongst the babble of voices, brands can speak to their subconscious in subtly manipulative ways. This is intensified by platforms such as Instagram, where unattainable images can be presented as reality – making it feel like you’re being offered a fabricated view of the world.

The conference ended with ‘The Future of the Food & Drink Industry,’ chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby. This debate produced one overriding conclusion – that 2017 is going to be a critical year for brands; one when they will have to both cut the information ‘noise’ afflicting consumers and rebuild trust. The consensus was that players who fail here will risk customers becoming more detached and dissatisfied.


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