Is Bigger Really Better? Most Consumers Leery of Big Food Brands, Research Finds

Is Bigger Really Better? Most Consumers Leery of Big Food Brands, Research Finds

When it comes to food safety, trust is a critical component for consumers. And although the leading big food brands have decades of record-breaking sales and proven customer satisfaction to support them, new research shows consumers are actually prone to trust big food less than small-scale producers.

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) is releasing data this week on consumer habits, which shows what CFI chief executive Charlie Arnot calls “a significant bias against size.”

“People believe that big is bad. There’s an inverse relationship between the size of an organization and the perception of shared values,” Arnot told Food Navigator. “Our qualitative and quantitative research shows that the larger the organization/company/farm, consumers are more likely to believe that it will put profits ahead of principle—that it will put its own interests above consumer interests every time.”

According to CFI’s research, fewer than three out of ten consumers think that small farmers and food producers are more likely to favor their own profits and gains over those of the consumer. But half of all consumers polled say they think this is exactly the modus operandi for big food brands: grow their profits regardless of how satisfied or healthy the customer is.

The research also notes that consumers are more apt to put the blame on food manufacturers instead of farmers in the case of animal welfare issues—even though livestock operations are most commonly third-party operations under contract with food manufacturers, not typically subsidiaries of the companies themselves.

“There is very little responsibility allocated to grocery stores and restaurants when it comes to transparency,” said Arnot.

And transparency does appear to be on the minds of both consumers and food brands—from supermarket staples to fast food restaurants. Brands are taking steps to meet the growing consumer demands not only for cleaner food products, but for full disclosure on ingredients, sugar content, and manufacturing processes.

CFI works directly with big food manufacturers, including Campbell’s Soup, which recently announced it was removing artificial ingredients from its best-selling chicken soup product; Hershey’s, which also recently pledged to remove artificial ingredients, as well as work to end child labor in its chocolate production; Tyson; Kroger; ConAgra; Smithfield Foods; Monsanto; and DuPont.

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