Image of man viewing tablet: FoodThink Pillars of Trust Build Consumer Trust
  • February 28, 2018

How Can Food Marketers Build Consumer Trust?

Just last month, Farm Journal Media hosted its now-annual Trust in Food Symposium in Chicago, where leaders from every corner of the food industry gather to examine, as its name suggests, the state of consumer trust in food.

Farm Journal asked Ali Mahaffy, Sullivan Higdon & Sink Co-CEO, to participate in a panel discussion titled “Speaking the Same Language for Success: How Marketers Communicate About Food.” Bringing a point of view that comes from SHS FoodThink research, along with experience working on a large roster of food and animal health clients, Ali spoke at length with the four other panelists – all with food-related expertise – about issues surrounding consumer trust in food production.

Trust in food is an important industry topic because, according to SHS FoodThink research, most Americans are removed from food production. Almost half (46%) haven’t set foot on a farm in the last 10 years1, and 66% of consumers admit they don’t have a good understanding of food production.2

This disconnect has formed a lack of trust in how food is produced. Just over a third (37%) of Americans feel the food industry is transparent, and 65% say it is important to know how their food is produced.2

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom.

The industry should maintain this momentum by purposefully building trust between brands and consumers.

SHS FoodThink data shows that consumer trust is on the rise, and we believe this positive trend is fueled by marketers listening to consumers’ desire for more information. The industry should maintain this momentum by purposefully building trust between brands and consumers.

And therein lies Ali’s take-home message from the symposium: Food brands most effectively build trust when they create a PACT with their consumers.

PACT represents the four pillars of trust-building in the food industry:



Understand your brand values. Establish what you stand for and the unique role your brand will fill with consumers.


Your brand needs to be true to itself. Don’t try to be another brand. Authentically live your brand’s unique values.


Don’t waver from your brand values, and consistently communicate them to your consumers. Ongoing communication and dialogue will build trust.


Be forthright in your ways. Establish straightforward, clear communication.


Brands that embrace transparency and follow the PACT model can turn skeptics into believers.

While it’s great news that perceptions of transparency in food production are improving, we also want to make this perfectly clear:

As food marketers, we still have a lot of work to do.


SHS FoodThink Data about Consumer Trust


From the above chart, you’ll see that the numbers representing consumers’ perception of transparency are rising. But brands still have ample room to improve – especially today, when there are more ways than ever to engage with consumers.

It will take a joint effort from food marketers, manufacturers, regulatory agencies and producers to help pull back the curtain to food production practices. Initiatives like the Trust in Food Symposium are critical in collaborating across the food system to build trust in what Americans eat.

And the best part is, consumers want to know more. They care about what you do and how you do it. Responding to their interest creates incredible opportunity, don’t you think?

Could your brand benefit from taking the PACT approach to building consumer trust?

If so, download the SHS FoodThink white paper, “Evolving Trust in the Food Industry.” It’s packed full of insights you can use to help improve trustworthiness, arguably the most valuable intangible your brand can own.

1 ”Building Trust in What We Eat,” Sullivan Higdon & Sink FoodThink, 2012.
2 ”Evolving Trust in the Food Industry,” Sullivan Higdon & Sink FoodThink, 2016.