Yes, undeniably, YES. And consumer watch groups spend a fair amount of time communicating to the masses on how the food industry has limited even this most basic element of transparency: Where ingredients are sourced. Consumers care about how and where products are made. It goes beyond being able to understand the ingredient list on a label, consumers want to know where they originated, how far they traveled and whether they’re safe.
This got me thinking about what’s created an environment supportive of the localization of ingredients. Consumers not only want transparency, they’re connecting it to their environmental and social concerns through their purchasing behavior. So, food purchasing is more than just a need, it has become a lifestyle choice. A GlobalData survey reported 41 percent of global consumers are often or always influenced by ethical, environmental or socially responsible factors when choosing food.
What’s happening elsewhere?
The desire for transparency in the food chain is not limited to the U.S. In Europe there’s a move to make country of origin labeling (COOL) mandatory for all food products. In recent years, a number of food safety concerns with tainted and mislabeled products has shaken consumer confidence in the food supply and bred mistrust along the food chain. This COOL initiative aims to rebuild consumer trust through transparency. Consumers believe buying more local foods ensures higher quality, cuts the number of food miles and supports local communities. More than half (52%) of global consumers agree products from the past are better than the ones available now. This is attributed, in part, to nostalgia, but also to a belief that locally grown products are more flavorful because they don’t have to travel as many miles to get to market.
Back in the U.S.
More consumers are reading labels and selecting products that fit their lifestyle. Eating more locally is a lifestyle choice on the rise. According to Mintel, new product introductions that claim “locally-sourced ingredients” or “product of the U.S.A.”, have increased steadily over the past five years, rising from 133 in 2014 to 299 for the year ending Feb. 2019, a 125 percent increase over the reporting period.
What does all this mean? It’s an opportunity for food companies large and small to build trust with consumers—especially young ones—through transparency about their ingredients, regarding sourcing and sustainability. Obviously, there’s market interest in products made with local ingredients and indicators consumers are willing to pay more for products they feel fit into and/or embody their lifestyle. The desire to be closer and more connected to the foods we eat has taken root, and will likely become more important in the future given the Global Political unrest.
And of course, I couldn’t wrap this up without a plug for locally grown fruit. Tree Top fruit is proudly grown and processed in the U.S. with traceability from farm to formulation. Our growers carefully cultivate and harvest fruit used in Tree Top products and ingredients. We work with our growers to provide transparency and traceability from the field to the shelf, bridging the gap so people can understand where and how their food is grown. Visit our video resource library to learn more about our growers and how our fruit is grown and processed.
At the top of blog post, view our short video about our fruit sourcing with Tree Top’s Fruit Procurement Manager, Dan Winiecke.