Trust in food manufacturers has fallen over the past few years, according to a new survey conducted by a consortium of European academic partners including the University of Reading and the University of Warsaw.
The EIT Food Trust Report surveyed 19,800 consumers from 18 European countries in order to measure their trust and confidence in the food system.
The report revealed that overall, consumer trust in the food sector has increased in the past year, farmers are the most trusted, with two-thirds (67%) of European consumers reporting that they trust farmers
Retailers are the next most trusted group, with 53% of consumers expressing their trust – a rise of 7% since 2018, according to the researchers this is potentially associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and the gratitude felt by some to the sector for maintaining food supplies and access.
However, trust in both government agencies and food manufacturers has fallen behind, with less than half of consumers across all countries (47% and 46% respectively) stating that they trust these groups.
In the UK, consumers consider the food industry to play a more caring role than other Europeans do, with seven in 10 (72%) believing that farmers act in the public interest, compared to a European average of 56%.
When it comes to confidence in food products themselves, consumers believe that food safety, on the whole, has improved, with an 8% increase from 2018 in those agreeing that food is generally safe, to a total of 55%. In the UK, this rises to 74%.
Likewise, just three in 10 consumers (30%) are confident that food products are generally produced in a sustainable way (meaning environmentally friendly, resource-efficient and ethically responsible), compared to 42% that consider them to be unsustainable.
Professor Klaus Grunert, from the Department of Management at Aarhus University, commented on these findings: ‘As the global population moves towards 10 billion by 2050, we need innovative technologies and collaborative approaches from farm to fork to deliver accessible and healthy food products in a sustainable way.
‘The EIT Food Trust Report shows that there are clear opportunities for the food industry to demonstrate how it is acting in the public interest and meet consumer demand regarding health and sustainability.’
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