Consumers are understandingly concerned about food safety. How concerned was a question Zebra Technologies Corp. asked of both consumers and food and beverage industry decision-makers worldwide from distribution and warehouses to grocery stores and restaurants?
Consumers said that their top food safety concerns include restaurant kitchen and wait staff hygiene, foodborne outbreaks, illness from contaminated food, and food and beverage recalls.
In fact, six in ten reported they would never eat at a restaurant again if they contracted a foodborne illness or food poisoning.
Slightly more than 80% of surveyed consumers said companies have an important role to play in implementing food safety solutions and ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling of their food. Most consumers (70%) said it is important to know how their food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared, and handled, while 69% agreed knowing how their food is sourced is also important.
Given recent food safety incidents and an increased focus on health and wellness, it’s unsurprising both consumers and industry decision-makers are showing a great level of interest in the source, quality and safety of their food.
However, a disconnect exists between what consumers believe and what industry decision-makers think. Almost seven in 10 (69%) decision-makers say the industry is prepared to manage food traceability and transparency, but only 35% of consumers agree.
Furthermore, only 13% of consumers felt the industry was extremely prepared today to manage food traceability and be transparent about how food travels through the supply chain, whereas 27% of decision-makers reported feeling this way.
Unfortunately, this is not just a short-term challenge as approximately half (51%) of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers said meeting consumer expectations will remain a challenge for five years.
“Findings from our study show that while the industry is taking measures to ensure a more transparent supply chain, more work needs to be done in order to increase consumer confidence and improve food traceability,” says Mark Wheeler, director of supply chain solutions, Zebra Technologies. “Businesses naturally have more information available to them but can improve consumers’ faith in their food sources by providing them access to the same information.”
One bright spot identified in the research is the role that technology can play in closing both these gaps in both the short- and long-term. An overwhelming majority (90%) of decision-makers acknowledged that investments in traceability-focused solutions will provide them with a competitive advantage by enabling them to meet the expectations of consumers.
When asked about the top benefits that technology-based track and trace solutions would provide, nearly six in 10 decision-makers cited risk reductions with proper handling, transportation and storage and tracking product perishability.
Forty-one percent of industry decision-makers reported RFID tags to improve food traceability within the supply chain more than any other technology, yet only 31% currently use them within their own organizations.
Mobile computers, mobile barcode label/thermal printers, rugged scanners and specialty labels and tags will also be key enablers in winning consumer trust and delivering more transparent information to consumers. Approximately 90% of surveyed industry decision-makers expect to use rugged handheld mobile computers with scanners, rugged barcode scanners and mobile barcode label/thermal printers within the next five years to digitally manage and track food products and related information.
KEY REGIONAL SURVEY FINDINGS
- The average trust level in companies and brands to ensure food and beverages are safe for public consumption is two and a half times higher in industry decision-makers (45%) than consumers (18%).
- Ninety-one percent of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers believe their companies have an important role in implementing food safety solutions.
- More than six in 10 (64%) consumers cite fear of foodborne illness/disease as their primary reason for wanting more information about their food source.
- Ninety-three percent of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers believe their companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling and management of food.
- Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers listed illness and deaths caused by contamination as their biggest concern for risks posed by the food supply chain.
- Eighty-nine percent of industry decision-makers believe investments in traceability-focused solutions would provide their companies with a competitive advantage.
- Only 15% of surveyed consumers completely trust food and beverage distributors to ensure the food and beverages are safe for public consumption.
- More than six in 10 (62%) consumers listed a foodborne outbreak as their top concern for food-related issues.
- Approximately half (53%) of surveyed industry decision-makers completely agree their companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling and management of food - the lowest of any region.
- Almost nine in 10 (87%) consumers cite restaurant kitchen staff hygiene as their top concern for food-related issues.
- The vast majority (97%) of surveyed industry decision-makers believe investing in food safety and traceability technology will provide their companies with a competitive edge.
- Seventy-nine percent of consumers responded that having access to accurate information on where their food came from was important to them.