Farmers have vital role in consumer confidence
Farmers are still trusted by consumers, despite British shoppers’ confidence in food safety, quality, consistency and authenticity dropping to its lowest ever level in mid-January.
Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, a consumer research charity, said that in the wake of the horsemeat scandal people felt let down by the whole system.
“That might sound unfair, but it’s the reality,” said Ms Denney-Finch as she addressed the NFU conference. “We all get judged by the lowest common denominator.”
But she added that the ebb in confidence could present an opportunity to create loyalty, and build stronger relations between producers and consumers.
“Not a job for farming alone, but you will play a vital part, and can emerge stronger,” she said.
Ms Denney-Finch told the conference that the largest food-testing programme ever undertaken put the food chain under intense scrutiny – and farmers would need to keep standards at their absolute highest.
She also warned about making claims that could not be substantiated.
“If you do speak in public about the events of the past few weeks, be careful about over-claiming,” she said.
“We don’t yet have all the evidence. If you pin all the problems on others, then if an issue is found later at any British farm, it would be a terrible own goal.”
But she cited a recent IGD survey that found farmers the third most trusted profession out of 14. However, they had suffered with the supermarkets loss of trust in food.
Another IGD survey found that 78% of shoppers said it was important that food came from Britain, up from 55% six years ago.
Ms Denney-Finch said that the one over-riding message that she would like to express was to put consumers at the heart of everything you did.
“It means going the extra mile to listen to what consumers have to say, taking their comments on board without being defensive, responding to their needs and concerns.
For more on this topic
News from the NFU conference 2013