Consumers today are better informed about product safety and purity than they were a decade ago. Today’s consumers are increasingly conscious about their purchase decisions and are increasingly contentious about only buying food that is safe and healthy.
Research has shown that a greater number of consumers are turning toward purchasing and consuming more organic and natural products. As of 2016, the organic food industry valued approximately $43 billion, an increase of 8.4% compared to 2015.
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The buzz words from 2014 up until today have been ‘organic’, ‘no hormones’, ‘no antibiotics’ and ‘GMO-free’. It’s been observed that consumers like seeing these phrases on their data labels. In fact, a direct correlation has been found between the purchase of food and beverages and the appearance of the above terms on their labels.
At the end of the day it’s all about transparency. Consumers around the world are increasingly relying on companies to be more transparent about the production processes they use and the ingredients they process. Transparency is linked directly to trust. This is exactly why companies today are investing in product labeling.
Worldwide and industry-wide attempts are being made to move away from using artificial ingredients and additives in favor of natural ingredients and organic produce. Manufacturers are working to regain consumers’ trust and goodwill by using clean labels.
Companies such as Mondelez and Kellogg are two examples. These are two of the largest food manufacturers in the US, and have vowed to remove artificial flavoring by the years 2020 and 2018, respectively. Campbell Soup, a multimillion-dollar producer of canned soup and other canned goods, is embracing a new system of data management designed to track product information and convey it to consumers in a timely and efficient manner. It’s obvious that the Food & Beverage Industry is on the cusp of a new era – one that is green and natural.
What Do Consumers Mean When They Talk About ‘Clean Eating’?
When we hear the terms ‘Clean Eating’, we assume that consumers are only referring to fresh, uncooked and non-processed food. Recent research has indicated that this belief is actually false.
A study by The NPD Group revealed that 61% of shoppers found packaged food acceptable for ‘Clean Eating’ and 44% were okay with consuming processed food. When probed, consumers revealed that they viewed ‘Clean Eating’ as a lifestyle rather than a short-term diet plan. The results of the study also revealed that consumers today prefer food that does not contain chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavoring, pesticides and additives. Any product that can assure them of its purity is good in their eyes.
This is where clean labels come in. Manufacturers may implement clean sourcing and production practices, but communication of these measures is the first step in developing business-to-consumer trust and generating revenue.
Statistics by the 2016 Google Shopping Guide revealed that more than 88% of consumers put stock in product description and labeling information while making purchase decisions. Consumers expect rich, timely and accurate product information across marketing channels. Whether they are looking at a product label or are using an online information repository, shoppers expect manufacturers to be transparent about product information.
Product information that shoppers expect includes:
- Ingredients used
- Allergens present
- Additives, preservatives and artificial flavors used
- Manufacturing and expiration dates
- GMO ingredients
- Manufacturing, transportation and packaging processes
- Lot size and lot number
- Shelf life
- Details about the manufacturer, supplier and third party organizations
A common problem observed across the industry today is the inability of companies to cater to the information requirements of consumers. Many manufactures either do not work with third party content providers nor do they have a proper data management system to help them manage and analyze their customers’ information requirements.
1WorldSync, a leading product information network and provider of product-related content solutions, has developed software designed to help users deliver accurate and trust-worthy product content, digital assets and industry insights to consumers across various platforms.
A Common Approach to Product Data Management
PA Consulting, a leading firm in the UK specializing in management consulting and technology, recently conducted research to understand the benefits afforded by industry-wide data management platforms in the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Sweden. Results revealed that industry experts and leaders were able to streamline operations, leading to industry-wide reduction in costs. There was also greater transparency in sharing information across parties, and an increase in sales as a result.
Known as the ‘Digital DNA Programme’ in the UK, setting up an industry-wide product data management platform enables manufacturers to track all ingredients, materials and processes directly to the point of origin, as well as helps them provide the pertinent information requested by consumers.
This type of industry-wide data management systems also allows companies to track regulatory policies, product innovations and consumer requirements in real-time. In essence, Digital DNA refers to the product footprint – information regarding absolutely every process and component that goes into the development of the final product.
There are other multiple benefits that manufacturers can experience by mapping the Digital DNA of a product:
Identification and Elimination of Wasteful Processes
One of the major benefits observed through the mapping of a product’s Digital DNA is the elimination of non-productive practices. PA Consulting observed savings amounting to £140 million as a result of eliminating unhealthy and unnecessary practices. Manual processes were also found that could be automated for greater efficiency. Complex processes in both production and non-production areas can be simplified to ensure greater efficiency and shorter turnover times.
Identification of Contamination Sources
Digital DNA allows companies to access a common repository where they are more likely to identify contamination sources they were hitherto unaware of. Key touch points that lead to food poisoning can be recognized and measures taken to ensure food safety.
Integrated Marketing Communication
Multi-channel marketing communications is the key to a successful business-to-consumer relationship. Most consumers today seek product information online. An industry-wide common platform will help manufacturers, retailers and suppliers provide the consumer in-depth information about a particular product to the consumer online.
Better Industry Exposure
New product development, process innovation and any other industry-related information can be easily shared, also making compliance with statutory requirements easier. Each country has its own unique regulations regarding food safety. Companies can work with their peers and partners to ensure effective compliance with statutory regulations.
The primary reason for an industry-wide common data management platform is to remove the existing barriers that hinder successful implementation of product data management. Together, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers can work towards making the food & beverage industry a sector that is conducive to growth, development and food safety.
Protection of Consumer Rights
Tracking the Digital DNA of a product is the best way to provide consumers the information they seek. All parties involved can better track the materials that go into their products and ensure that the end product is clean in every aspect.
A ‘Clean Product’ is a highly subjective entity. But, by implementing a Digital DNA Programme, companies can ensure consumers that their products are truly safe. Once provided with product data assurance, companies can then set about creating comprehensive clean labels their consumers can benefit from.