Open up to prove British food quality

The events of the past few weeks have shocked the British food industry and dented consumer confidence in what has long been one of the safest and highest quality food supply chains in the world.

Joanne Denney-Finch: 'We need to make it our responsibility to tell the story of food production as often as possible'
Joanne Denney-Finch: 'We need to make it our responsibility to tell the story of food production as often as possible'

Now begins the challenge to restore trust that goes well beyond the products directly affected. The whole chain is under great scrutiny.

At the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) we’ve been tracking shopper sentiment for years, and this knock to confidence is probably the biggest we have seen. Overall sales may not have been drastically affected but there has been a huge amount of switch buying.

Applying the rules of good comms will be critical. That means more transparency than ever before. It also means making it our responsibility to tell the story of food production as often and as creatively as possible.

IGD is a barometer of consumer sentiment and over the past few weeks we’ve been facilitating discussions between Defra and the food industry. We will continue to bring everyone together to think about how we all communicate with consumers, while also using public platforms ourselves, like the NFU conference this week, to tell the story of the food supply chain.

This means opening the doors of our farms, factories, distribution centres and stock rooms. There are many examples of innovative companies doing this already. Social media provide a powerful platform on which to tell a story. And local media are even more interested in the food industry than usual, so invite them in.

It’s infuriating that the activities of a few, engaged in what looks like criminal activity, should tarnish the reputation of so many good companies. When the police and other investigations are complete, we’ll take all the lessons on board.

Whatever those investigations find, we have to restore confidence. If we do this decisively enough and exceed people’s expectations, it could be an opportunity to raise confidence to a new, even higher level.
The British food industry has much to be proud of. So let’s get on the front foot and demonstrate the quality of our world-class food supply chain.

Joanne Denney-Finch OBE is chief executive of the Institute of Grocery Distribution, the food industry’s research body

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