You are here
With consumers increasingly expecting improved transparency and trustworthiness in product, sourcing and production practice claims, global independent public health and safety organization NSF International has introduced Consumer Values Verified. The new program, being promoted at FMI Connect at McCormick Place in Chicago, helps food manufacturers, marketers and retailers navigate the often complicated path to certification, with the aim of bringing increased credibility to manufacturers' labeling claims.
As Consumer Values Verified Director Jaclyn Bowen (pictured above) noted, the organization is better known for its work on the food safety side, but its latest program addresses the concerns of consumers who want to make sure that products live up to the claims on their labels. Shoppers’ current mindset seems to be, “If you have a claim, prove it,” Bowen told PG, and that’s where Consumer Values Verified comes in.
For instance, as she points out, the federal definition of “gluten-free” is less than 20 parts per million, but factors such as inadvertent contamination or compromised supply chain integrity may invalidate a company's claim. Consumer Values Verified provides a pathway for businesses to back up what they put on their packaging, through rigorous third-party testing and auditing. The whole process takes from eight to 12 weeks, depending on companies' ability to make the required changes, explained Bowen.
As well as gluten-free, she notes that Non-GMO Project Verified items are also a big concern currently – "the fastest-growing label in North America" – which she attributes to various state-level initiatives, such as in Vermont, that have created greater consumer awareness, or "literacy," in regard to the issue.
According to Bowen, the trend toward transparency is especially marked in Millennials, and has spurred food retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target and Whole Foods Market to make more moves in that direction. "Knowing isn't just nice, it's imperative," she asserts, adding that participation in the program not only increases consumer trust, but also reduces brand risk and enhances a company's reputation.
The program also covers True Source Honey and Kosher certifications, but Bowen confided that several more designations would be coming out in the next few months. "It's all about fostering consumer trust," she says.
When asked which product claims were up and coming, Bowen predicts that Walmart's recently rolled-out commitment to animal welfare and the responsible use of antibiotics wouldn't be the last seen in the industry.