- The Food Marketing Institute Foundation launched a cross-industry communications effort to proactively create an environment of trust and consumer confidence in purchase decisions, called the Unified Voice Protocol, on Tuesday, according to a press release.
- The pilot project in this initiative looked at sustainability-related poultry production practices, focusing on cage-free eggs and slow-growth broilers.
- FMI partnered with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Animal Agriculture Alliance to develop and fund the project.
Consumers are passionate about environmental issues, especially those that affect the food they put on their tables. Individual companies have taken positions on a broad range of sustainability issues, but now the food business is coming together around a consistent communications effort. This represents a solid step forward in the evolution of — and education around — the food system.
The Unified Voice Protocol arose from confusion about the science and facts about food. Many factors have contributed to the dissonance, including shifting science and research, misleading public information campaigns and evolving consumer preferences. The mixed messages have resulted in shocks in the food sector as an increasingly fractured system lacks a uniform approach and message on the big food issues, according to the research report.
This will benefit those companies that sincerely endeavor to educate their customers with the best available knowledge. While many separate firms earn kudos by acting on their own, their efforts can only be improved by information provided by the larger industry doing research on their behalf. It also breaks down the ongoing — and seemingly age-old — reluctance of retailers and suppliers to share information up and down the supply chain.
The pilot project addressed how willing consumers are to pay for production practices related to eggs, focusing on the marketing value of cage-free housing systems and slow-growth broilers. Not surprisingly, willingness to pay a premium for cage-free eggs increased in relation to household income, and decreased with the age of shoppers. Also, consumers expressing more concern over animal welfare, naturalness, fairness, and the environment are more likely to pay more for cage-free eggs. Consumers who are more focused on price, convenience and safety are less likely to spend more.
Consumers’ willingness to pay for slow-growth chicken — as well as the importance of this attribute in consumer choice — depends on the information provided to them. It is less important than other label claims, except when consumers are given information that favors slow-growth chicken.
While this first set of research is focused on marketing information — a primary interest for retailers and their suppliers — future studies will be aimed at making sure the food and agricultural industries make informed decisions in regard to their research, production and retail sales, said the press release. FMI said it will seek input from leaders of the food, agricultural and advocacy industries to identify other emerging issues.
The old joke about the chicken and the egg reveals an eternal conundrum, but FMI has apparently decided where to start unraveling it: research and factual information.