Machine mincing meat in grocery store© Mood Board/REX/Shutterstock

Consumer confidence in food is on the decline as a result of high-profile cases of food fraud, such as the 2013 horsemeat crisis.

NFU Mutual has published a report on food fraud that found that one-third of the people surveyed were less trusting of food supply chains than they were five years ago and almost three-quarters (72%) believe there is an issue with food fraud in the UK.

The least trusted products are processed foods (35%), red meat (18%) and food supplements (15%).

See also: US Brazilian beef ban casts doubts over Mercosur trade agreement

However, the research also found confidence in the British supply chain is relatively high in comparison with foreign supply chains.

Almost nine out of 10 people said they did not trust foreign food chains.

Advice for businesses

The report is designed to benefit businesses working across the supply chain – including farmers.

It says businesses that are able to adapt and appeal to consumer demands for transparency may achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

One-quarter of the 2,000 respondents to the survey said they had higher trust in short, local supply chains and people said they trusted small businesses more than larger corporations.

The report therefore urges more retailers and caterers to consider using and celebrating a short, British or local produce supply chain to win the hearts and confidence of their customers.

Food labels key

The report says more than two-thirds of people read the ingredients list on products to help them decide whether the food they are buying is legitimate.

Turn-offs when it comes to labels include far-fetched claims about a product’s benefits (40%), label text in a different language (40%), poor-quality packaging (34%), unknown brand (33%) and sparse labelling or text (28%).

This has lessons for farmers selling direct to the public as well as producers selling via retailers.

“Producers may find that they earn more consumer trust and reap the benefit in sales by investing in quality packaging with clear labelling – especially important if targeting young people under 24 years of age,” it says.

“Retailers may benefit from promoting supply chain inspections and selling products with quality labelling.”