Linda Eatherton, managing director and partner at global food and drink research firm Ketchum spoke of a new food-savvy consumer type – the food evangelist – who makes up around 24% of the population.
“They are wary of processed foods but don’t reject it. They look at the ingredients label and ask ‘Did you put that in there because it’s cheaper than another ingredient or because it brings a benefit to me?’
“They are also wary of overzealous marketing campaigns. Adverts that claim a product is the best, the only, the most – these are red flags for food evangelists who think ‘you must be spinning something’
In a world of misinformation and disinformation where the public “reads everything but believes nothing”, companies need to change the way they communicate, and follow up words with meaningful action.
“If you have product recall you can’t just say ‘We are sorry, food safety is very important to us.’ The message needs to be ‘This is what we did wrong, and this are the steps we will take to make sure this never happens again.”
When asked if any major food companies have adopted this communication tactic, Eatherton pointed to McDonalds Canada.
“They aren’t apologising for what they do or trying get rid of all critics.”
Its website has a page called ‘Our Food, Your Questions’ lists thousands of questions put to the company on social media, including questions on its use of genetically modified ingredients or its fat, salt and sugar content, and it tries to answer them honestly.