The struggle to reintroduce consumers to their food.
There is a story floating around of a dismayed consumer who wondered why we had to kill animals for meat when we could just go to the grocery store and buy it. Yes. It’s a head-scratcher. Though the origin of this story is dubious it does highlight the verifiable disconnect between consumers and their food source.
This is deeply troubling to food companies.
A heritage of pride runs deep among food producers. The Pennsylvania Farm Show – the largest indoor agricultural event in the United States – just concluded its 100th show. This event showcases the latest farm equipment and farm practices while providing a way for non-farmers to learn about how agricultural products are grown, harvested and processed. Every year hundreds of thousands of consumers come face-to-face with the food they eat and the people who provide it. There are culinary demonstrations from chefs and Food Network personalities. Competitions are held to judge the finest beef and dairy cattle, sheep, swine, poultry and produce. But the thing most on display among the farmers and exhibitors is the pride they take in what they do.
Food companies, especially larger regional and national brands, are looking to recapture some of that pride. Unfortunately many Americans feel alienated from their sources of food. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service less than 2 percent of the U.S. workforce is directly involved in agriculture. Most consumers have never visited a farm – or a farm show – which creates a murky perception of where their dinner comes from. Even for a choice as intimate and important as what people choose to put in their mouths, the problem is getting a disaffected populace to care. After all, if a consumer doesn’t feel connected or care about the product, how are they to care about the brand?
This raises the issue of transparency. Communicating proactively about things like animal welfare, fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide usage, the positive and negative impacts of genetically modified organisms will help educate consumers. And a well-educated consumer is more likely to make purchasing decisions based on quality and trust rather than just on price alone. Companies dedicated to doing right by their consumers and are forthright about how food is raised will always have a great story to tell.
From a marketing standpoint, a great story told well is the gateway to greater consumer loyalty and sales. And that’s something we can all be proud of.