Rebuilding trust to become companies’ crucial concern, says Mintel

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Kashrut

Recovering public trust will emerge as “the paramount concern” of 2009, as doubts are cast on the safety even of kosher and organic food, according to Mintel’s director of research Joan Holleran.

Mintel first identified ‘rebuilding trust’ as a key trend for 2009 back in November, but following the salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products, food safety has joined a number of specific areas the market researcher has identified in which it says trust is perceived to be lacking.

Holleran said: “From government changes to food safety to struggling financial institutions, the American public’s trust has been broken repeatedly in recent months. Rebuilding this trust is crucial for business success, consumer confidence and overall economic recovery.”

The comments come in response to President Obama’s address to the nation on February 25 in which he spoke of a “deficit of trust”​ in government.

Holleran added: “Many Americans had their confidence dashed by failed expectations, and they’re also spending less because of the recession. Companies need to develop trusting, honest relationships so they can get shoppers’ precious dollars.”

Reassessing kosher and organic

Specifically, the market research organization said that the peanut butter safety scare could cause the safety of even kosher and organic foods to be reassessed. It said: “Organic foods are not immune to outbreaks of e-coli, for example.”

The pessimistic prediction for kosher foods comes despite the release of a Mintel report last month, which showed that 34 percent of those buying kosher foods do so because they perceive it to be safer. However, considering the scandal surrounding the previously kosher-certified Peanut Corporation of America, added to the demise of kosher meat processors Agriprocessors last year, Mintel said this clearly indicates “kosher certification doesn’t guarantee food safety”.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America sent a letter on February 10 terminating the PCA’s kosher certification.

Senior new product analyst at Mintel Krista Faron told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the idea of kosher as a guarantee of food safety is “all about consumer perception that there is some sort of formalized methodology”​ rather than any evidence that kosher food is actually safer.

The market for kosher food and beverage has been growing strongly over the past five years, and Mintel valued the market for kosher-certified prepared foods, as well as kosher meat, dairy and fish, at $12.5bn in 2008, a rise of 64 percent on 2003.

‘Greenwashing’

Meanwhile, as companies have increasingly tried to put forward an environmentally friendly image, many have been accused of ‘greenwashing’, and a recent American Grocery Shopper Survey found a high level of skepticism amongst consumers around eco-claims, with three-quarters believing that “some companies are exploiting environmentally friendly claims for marketing purposes.”

Holleran said: “Green manufacturers need to clarify their environmental efforts and communicate their eco-effects, so shoppers can trust that they’re truly benefiting the environment.”

Other areas Mintel has identified as requiring rebuilding of public trust include government, finance and the automotive industry.

Related topics: Suppliers

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