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There's a lot of talk these days about how “Big Food” is bad. Bad for the environment. Bad for our health. Bad for our kids. Without “Big Food," and the large-scale production facilities created to reduce costs and keep food prices as low as possible, some argue, millions of people around the world would have starved to death.
Millennials are leading the way with their passion for foods – to have more free-from ingredient statements and claims, disclosure of animal welfare practices, understanding where our food comes from and how it's produced, and a clear sense of the business practices of the brands they buy. We're seeing an unprecedented change -- and quickly -- as all food companies scurry to change their recipes and the way they do business.
A recent column on Forbes.com, “Five Actions Big Food Can Take Today To Regain Consumer Trust,” written by Nancy Fink Huehnergarth, tells just how the industry can be part of the solution:
- Stop fighting proposed nutrition labeling measures. When the food industry fights tooth and nail to hide critical information from the consumer, it doesn’t engender trust. Huehnergarth warns that fighting against labeling and consumer education legislation makes the industry look like it has something to hide.
- Stop marketing to children. She contends that it's unfair, since children don’t have the capacity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing; it often leads to epic battles as kids whine and beg for unhealthy food products that have been marketed directly to them.
- Invest in healthy, fresh food production. Campbell’s, Coca-Cola and General Mills are focused on food innovation, particularly in response to growing demand for organic and natural options. Huehnergarth predicts that consumers will move to healthier, whole-food snacking (e.g., fruits, vegetables, low-sugar yogurt).
- Stop marketing unhealthy foods as healthy with misleading claims: She writes that consumers are beginning to grasp that many of these “healthwashing” claims are bogus, and that a bag of snack chips with a “No Artificial Colors” or “Now With Vitamin C” claim is still an unhealthy choice.
- Stop funding health, medical, and community organizations, as well as universities and researchers, to silence potential critics.
The article is a good reminder that we're in a new age of consumers and pundits alike challenging our industry to make it more relevant to consumers' needs, but one note of caution: Don’t rush the process of change, as many of the operational efficiencies are still needed to keep our food supply safe and affordable.