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    Keys to Communicating Transparently with Ingredient-Conscious Consumers

    Establishing authenticity will help build trust

    By Bill Sussman , Collective Bias

    Today’s consumers are savvier and more connected than ever before. This has created an instantaneous desire for information on everything — from how our online data is being used to what goes into the products we eat every day.

    A 2014 poll conducted by Consumer Reports revealed that 92 percent of U.S. consumers think that before genetically-engineered food is sold, it should be labeled accordingly. As previously reported by Progressive Grocer, a recent study by NPD Group found that more than 30 percent of consumers are cautious about serving foods with preservatives, with a similar sentiment for additives.

    With rising concerns about the creation and processing of food products comes a need for brands to be step up their social communications. Here are some keys to communicating transparently with today’s hyper-aware consumers.

    Keep lines of communication open

    Think of social media as your ultimate communication tool. There’s no denying the number of consumers now using social channels to voice their opinions (both good and bad) about the food products they buy and the grocers they shop at. There’s no quicker way to give and receive feedback directly with consumers than on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. If a customer is not happy with the ingredients found in your product and is vocalizing that on your social page, respond to them directly and openly.

    Being honest about your food practices is becoming far more important to consumers. A survey of 2,000 people conducted by the Center for Food Integrity asked consumers what they wanted food producers to be most transparent about - policies, practices, performance or verification. The top ranked response? Practices. Survey respondents believed transparency in a company’s practices counted most toward building trust between the two sides.

    Lean on brand advocates and influencers to help spread your message

    Such unprecedented access to information online makes for extremely educated food consumers. Devoted consumers will know your products inside and out, and are happy to share their positive insights and uses of the product.

    Don’t be afraid to reach out to these consumers to help spread the word of any communications you might have. Where do you find these consumers? Look at who tags your brand on Instagram or comments on your Facebook posts. These are your everyday advocates.

    Partnering with social influencers is also a great way to spread a brand message. Working with influencers that have already been talking about your brand with their audiences will amplify the authenticity of your communications. Since they are already known for loving your brand, why not utilize their passion and credibility with their audiences to your advantage?

    Create an online resource for your consumers to reference

    Last year, Campbell Foods took a massive industry leap in offering transparency about their soup and sauce products by creating a website accessible to anyone, Whatsinmyfood.com. The site provides three simple pillars about the company’s products: what goes in their food, how they make the food and the choices behind their food. Even items coming from genetically-engineered crops are listed. A spokesperson for the company said the site had no seeming impact on their sales. What does this prove? That consumers do not respond badly to less-than-stellar ingredients when companies are upfront about it.

    Final note: The marketplace is, and always will be, consumer-driven. As consumers increasingly demand to know the ins and outs of food companies’ products and processes, establishing transparency and authenticity will help build public trust.

    By Bill Sussman , Collective Bias
    • About Bill Sussman Bill Sussman is president and CEO of Collective Bias, a shopper social media company that drives sales for brands and retailers by working with a community of expert bloggers who create social content consumers actively seek out and trust. Sussman has deep experience in digital marketing, retail and media industries, and has previously held leadership positions at Nickelodeon, Walmart, Triad Retail Media and Ringling Bros. [email protected]

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