More than 80% of consumers surveyed say companies have an important role to play in implementing food safety solutions and an ethical responsibility to ensure the safe handling of their food, according to Zebra Technologies Corp.'s Food Safety Supply Chain Vision Study.
The study highlights the views of consumers as well as food and beverage industry decision-makers worldwide from distribution and warehouses to grocery stores and restaurants around safety, traceability and transparency.
Surveyed consumers reported their top food safety concerns include restaurant kitchen and wait staff hygiene, foodborne outbreaks, illness from contaminated food, and food and beverage recalls. Consumers can be quite unforgiving if they experience a food incident as approximately six in 10 reportedly would never eat at a restaurant again if they contracted a foodborne illness or food poisoning. Most consumers (70%) said it is important to know how their food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared, and handled, while 69% agreed knowing how their food is sourced is also important.
Consumer Confidence is Low
Given recent food safety incidents and an increased focus on health and wellness, it’s unsurprising both consumers and industry decision-makers are showing a great level of interest in the source, quality and safety of their food. However, a disconnect exists between what consumers believe and what industry decision-makers think. Almost seven in 10 (69%) decision-makers say the industry is prepared to manage food traceability and transparency, but only 35% of consumers agree. Furthermore, only 13% of consumers felt the industry was extremely prepared today to manage food traceability and be transparent about how food travels through the supply chain, whereas 27% of decision-makers reported feeling this way. Unfortunately, this is not just a short-term challenge as approximately half (51%) of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers said meeting consumer expectations will remain a challenge in five years.
The Role of Technology
One bright spot identified in the research is the role that technology can play in closing both these gaps in both the short- and long-term. An overwhelming majority (90%) of decision-makers acknowledged that investments in traceability-focused solutions will provide them with a competitive advantage by enabling them to meet the expectations of consumers. When asked about the top benefits that technology-based track and trace solutions would provide, nearly six in 10 decision-makers cited risk reductions with proper handling, transportation and storage and tracking product perishability. Forty-one percent of industry decision-makers reported RFID tags improve food traceability within the supply chain more than any other technology, yet only 31% currently use them within their own organizations.
Mobile computers, mobile barcode label/thermal printers, rugged scanners and specialty labels and tags will also be key enablers in winning consumer trust and delivering more transparent information to consumers. Approximately 90% of surveyed industry decision-makers expect to use rugged handheld mobile computers with scanners, rugged barcode scanners and mobile barcode label/thermal printers within the next five years to digitally manage and track food products and related information.
NORTH AMERICAN REGIONAL SURVEY FINDINGS
- The average trust level in companies and brands to ensure food and beverages are safe for public consumption is two and a half times higher in industry decision-makers (45%) than consumers (18%).
- Ninety-one percent of surveyed food and beverage decision-makers believe their companies have an important role in implementing food safety solutions.
- More than six in 10 (64%) consumers cite fear of foodborne illness/disease as their primary reason for wanting more information about their food source.
Zebra’s Food Safety Supply Chain Vision Study included approximately 4,957 consumers and 462 food and beverage industry decision-makers in the manufacturing, transportation & logistics, retail and wholesale distribution markets in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe who were interviewed in January 2020 by Azure Knowledge Corp.