Manufacturers urged to ensure food safety

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    The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic has heightened consumer concern around food safety and transparency, necessitating manufacturers to define food sourcing and hygiene standards.

    A Market Intelligence Digest said retailers and brands should thus engage with consumers on the food safety measures that are employed in the “invisible world” of the food manufacturing site, as they reassess safety and hygiene messaging.

    “Give consumers the details. Taking a lead from foodservice, transparency around procedures and practices, factory processes, and the specifics of food safety measures could inspire confidence in weary consumers, especially for smaller players,” it said, noting the need to explain factory processes in layman’s terms.

    The report said many outlets have been “very clear” about the limitations the coronavirus has placed on their usual offer, citing as an example McDonald’s which opened with reduced hours and a reduced menu to simplify kitchen operations and maintain social distancing.

    This type of transparency can garner both empathy and trust from consumers in tough times,” it added.

    Foodservice operators have strived to be more transparent for years, with more open kitchens and more detailed menu entries describing cooking processes.

    “In retail, food manufacturing plants remain largely faceless and nameless, and for many consumers could be seen as quite alien and far removed from home kitchens,” the report said.

    It said the global threat of Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns created conditions that make new product launches extremely difficult for smaller brands and start-ups, and new product exploration less of a priority for consumers.

    “Confidence in food hygiene is perhaps an underappreciated battleground for smaller operators, and one that will grow in importance going forward. Those brands that do make it onto shelves (or indeed that go direct to consumer) should convey their food hygiene/factory practice stories to compete for trust with big brands.

    Conversely, big brands need to keep pushing their safety messages to secure their trusted position,” the report added.

    Meanwhile, the Euromonitor Digest said the pandemic has accelerated the interest in locally-sourced food, in connection with transparency, high quality, and food safety, as well as a means of supporting the local economy.

    The report added the increase in demand for private label and affordable wellness brands during the global lockdowns is expected to continue as disposable incomes fall.

    “Added value can reduce price sensitivity though. Integrity and transparency of the food supply chain, local sourcing, as well as products able to deliver on health multi-functionality add value to the offering. A clear brand narrative to communicate this is essential,” said the report, authored by Maria Mascaraque, industry manager at Euromonitor International.