traceability - farm to fork

March 25, 2021

Enhancing food products traceability from farm to fork

How important is food traceability to consumers? According to a recent survey of French food buyers, it’s influencing the buying decision more and more – and Digital ID solutions have an increasing role to play. 

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the traceability of food products, and its influence on the buying decisions of consumers. However, do consumers really care? How does knowing where their food comes from influence their buying decisions? What impact does more or less transparency have on the reputation of a brand? Would a consumer stop buying from a particular retailer if its product information is limited, or difficult to find? Looking forward, how will consumer traceability expectations change, post-pandemic?

The French market has long been at the leading edge of retail innovation, so in February 2021, Avery Dennison teamed up with LSA, the leading retail magazine in France, to find out. We surveyed 1,000 French consumers about their food-buying habits, and which factors influence their purchase choice. In order to give accurate results, the sample of 1,000 individuals was selected according to the distribution of the French population in terms of gender, age, socio-professional category and region.

More transparency required from food producers and distributors
The simple presence of a product in a food store is not enough at the present time to inspire confidence in the French consumer. They want more information. Is the product sustainable? Where was it produced? How was it transported? 

These are questions that consumers are increasingly seeking answers to, even if some of them are asked more often than others. Unsurprisingly,  88% look for the expiry date; but not far behind are the 80% of consumers who want to know about the origin of a product. More surprising perhaps is that of those surveyed, 32% want information on the carbon footprint of the product (e.g., transport method, etc.). 

61% of consumers look for the effects of the product on health, and 43% for information on the producer. As for the future following the pandemic, 81% of French consumers report that they regularly look for information on the composition of the product. Indeed, the health crisis has reinforced this search for information, particularly with regard to its origin: 72% say they have been more attentive to this information since the beginning of the crisis.

Allowing the consumer to access more information easily, for example by tapping a smartphone against a product’s NFC label, seems to be an increasingly important trend.

Consumers think product information is still too difficult to find
The new information on packaging, although appreciated, does not seem to be enough to satisfy the great majority of consumers, who generally think that food brands do not communicate enough on the traceability and origin of products. Significantly, the traceability information provided by organic brands is seen as much more credible (74%) than the claims made on supermarket products (58%) or by discount retailers (47%).

While label information is important, 49% of French consumers believe that Digital ID technologies will make the traceability of products more transparent and accessible (RFID, QR codes, blockchains, etc.). Allowing the consumer to access more information easily, for example by tapping a smartphone against a product’s NFC label, therefore seems to be an increasingly important trend. 

traceability - farm to fork

Product recalls generate great dissatisfaction
Product recalls have a huge impact on brand reputation -- 53% of French consumers would think twice about buying the same brand again. Given that product recalls have been increasing steadily over the last few years, and that no less than 22% of French people say they have already been informed about the recall of a product they have consumed, the importance of this issue is obvious.

However, only 19% of French people who have been informed of a product recall were contacted directly by a brand or producer. 79% of those who systematically returned the product were satisfied with the procedure, compared to only 39% of those who did not return it, i.e., a difference of 40 points. Avoiding non-returns, at least when consumers were informed, therefore seems to be a major potential brand benefit.

Improving the recall experience
Logically, the French feel that the main area for improvement in product returns would be to notify consumers more quickly (53%), but there are also 47% who would like to check whether their product is subject to a recall procedure. 

RFID has a role to play here. By tracking every individual item across multiple points in the supply chain, retailers can remove unsafe products much more quickly and accurately, resulting in faster response times and less waste. Any trouble spots along the way can be pinpointed, minimizing risks and costs.

In addition, unsafe products that have been purchased can be quickly identified. If customer engagement options are enabled for an RFID-tagged product, the consumer can be contacted rapidly and securely to ensure a high rate of product returns.

If retailers, brands or producers do not inform the consumer effectively enough, they may see other actors, such as the Yuka app, doing this job instead.

Read the French article on LSA publication here.

See the infographic with the key study stats here


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