More Canadians content with direction food system is taking, new survey finds

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Survey: More Canadians content with direction food system is going

Related tags Food Food price inflation

A growing number of Canadians – 43% in 2017 compared with 30% in 2016 – believe that Canada’s food system is ‘headed in the right direction,’ according to a survey from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI). 

The CCFI gathers information annually on respondents’ level of concern regarding transparency, such as how food is grown and from where it is sourced. Results were published in the 2017 Canadian CFI Public Trust Research​ report.

The nationally representative online survey was completed in May and June 2017 by 1,307 respondents aged 18+ in both French and English.

Also at 43% was the number of consumers that said they were unsure of how they felt about the Canadian food system’s direction, a decrease from 50% last year. The number of respondents who said the food system is on the wrong track was also down to 14% in 2017 vs 21% in 2016.

What are the top concerns, and whom do they concern?

A more granular breakdown of the data reveals that the rising cost of food was the biggest concern Canadians had, with 62% of the respondents choosing it as their top concern. This mirrors a report from this summer by researchers at Dalhousie University​, which said that food price inflation has greatly affected the Canadian shopper’s attitude.

Following closely was concern over keeping healthy food affordable (61%), rising energy costs (58%) and rising health care costs (54%).

But in general, the survey found that most concerns were down from 2016, most notably was the concern of humane treatment of farm animals.  Last year, for example, only 27% of respondents said that videos of farm animals being treated poorly are not representative of normal livestock farming. The number was up at 36% this year.

Source: The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity

Be straightforward with consumers

The increase of consumers comfortable with where the food system is going comes at a time when companies and third party certifiers are racing to prove to consumers why their product is better. This include candy companies in the US being more transparent about serving sizes and nutrition​ to companies such as Campbell Soup being straightforward​ when it comes to whether or not a product contains GMO ingredients.

“Companies and organizations must share information—both positive and negative,” ​according to the report. “Perhaps less obvious to some is the importance of open dialogue and engaging consumers, which will only continue to increase as personalized digital communication dominates the way consumers connect.”

So what can companies do with information from the report? “Consumers want to know if companies are listening, acknowledging their questions and feedback, and explaining how and why they make decisions,” ​the authors added.

A recent study by Tetra Pak​ revealed just how much influence social media interaction with brands influence consumer purchase decisions. A majority of Millennials expect brands to entertain them, and 78% expect brands to reply to their social media interactions, according to Tetra Pak’s report.

Responsibility for transparency goes to…

The report also revealed where consumers expect information to come from. When it comes to food safety information, food processors and manufacturers were seen as the primary responsibility-holders of transparency, followed by government and farmers.

Food manufacturers were also considered to be responsible for being transparent about labor and human rights in food production, as well as business ethics in food production. Treatment of animals raised for food, on the other hand lies in the hands of farmers.

“Story telling and providing consumers with examples of business practices are important,” ​according to the report. “Canadians look for information on four categories: policies, practices, performance and verification.”

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