Radical transparency to shape future food agenda

According to a Cranswick report, published in association with sustainability consultant Veris Strategies, growing consumer demand for new levels of transparency are set to disrupt the food industry in the wake of continued food scares.

Earlier this year, UK food regulators launched a nationwide review of the meat industry following a series of high profile food safety breaches at processing factories. With public trust in the food system eroding to an all-time low, the report ‘Radical Transparency: The rise of disruptive consumerism’ –– highlights the risks that food companies face if they don’t take fundamental urgent action to address this.

The report, which draws on research conducted with consumers and industry experts, argues that as demand for food provenance grows, the food industry must be able to demonstrate greater accountability across the entire farm to fork supply chain, not just to future-proof business but to give added assurances on hygiene, safety, ethics and sustainability standards as transparency becomes an ever-increasing critical issue.

It predicts that in the future, shoppers will want to access real-time information on traceability issues from the convenience of their smartphone as part of this ‘open kitchen’ approach. The ‘open kitchen’ analogy can also be applied to social media, which has increasingly empowered consumers to instantly question and take brands to task when their actions cause confusion.

The report has been endorsed by professor Chris Elliott OBE, director of the Institute for Global Food Security and faculty pro-vice chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast. In 2013, Elliott led an independent review of the UK’s food system following the horsemeat scandal.

“I highly commend the company for taking such bold and dynamic steps forward in terms of the transparency agenda,” he says.  “The ultimate goal must be that our UK citizens will once more start to trust the food that they rely on. Trust that has been lost due to scandal after scandal. To me, Cranswick is doing exactly the right thing at the right time and I can only hope others will follow suit.”

Greater transparency will require the industry to adopt new technologies such as Blockchain, which can harvest tamper-proof data on the origin and authenticity of food products. On-pack certification labels and logos offer an innovative way to communicate this information to consumers in a matter of seconds. Data will continue to play a pivotal role in communication, as consumers will demand companies move away from storytelling efforts towards verified accounts as their solid source of transparent information.

Commenting on the report and its findings, Cranswick CEO Adam Couch, says, “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.”

Kate Cawley, creative director at Veris Strategies, adds, “Through undertaking this report, it is clear the time for Radical Transparency is now. The report calls on the food industry to not only collaborate to build these type of open data systems, but work more strategically to increase the visibility of the whole food supply chain, enabling producers and manufacturers further upstream to start influencing the consumer food debate. Collaboration will be essential to deliver transparency, and build trust, on a scale and at the pace consumers expect.”

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