The Citizen Participation Forum (CPF) took place between late 2020 and early 2021 in order to gain a deeper understanding of consumer attitudes towards the food chain, particularly the role trust plays in that relationship. The Forum involved an online community of 178 participants from 13 European countries, who engaged in open discussions, photo assignments, questionnaires, short polls and five live focus group sessions.
Trust in the food chain is vital to encourage people to eat more healthily and sustainably. The insights from the CPF were used to co-create three key themes which play a role in influencing consumers to eat more healthily, more sustainably, and to be more open towards food innovation.
Barriers and motivations
The CPF found that motivation to adopt a healthier and more sustainable diet is high, and that most consumers have a good idea of what a healthier diet is. However, there are large differences in people’s ability to eat healthily and many struggle due to factors such as price, knowledge and time.
Furthermore, although most consumers report they would like to eat sustainably, it is often not a primary consideration when making food choices.
“I am prepared to adopt a more sustainable diet such as organic food if I can find it easily in stores but it’s often very expensive; only a few products can be purchased each month because of my budget, or I try to take advantage of promotions to buy more.” (Olivier, FR, 54)
So, what can we do about this?
Pathways to trust
Consumers suggested a range of solutions for building trust which can be grouped into three main areas:
Transparency and control
Make the food chain transparent so that everyone can see what is happening and make informed choices as a result.
“In today’s world, the consumer has a good opportunity to influence the actors in the food chain. We can make reviews on social media platforms and at best, it can go viral all over the world.” (Päivi, FI, 63)
Increase simplicity to make it easier to know what good food is, how it is produced and where it comes from.
“The world grows more complex in all areas of life and I think that people finally get tired of all the options and there simply isn’t time to become familiar with everything going on around us. Simplicity is what we need more and more.” (Marja-Liisa, FI, 56)
Foster deep and genuine affection for (a certain) food to enhance trust.
“If I were a farmer, I would organise a workshop for primary school children from nearby towns, so that they could see with their own eyes what our work looks like, how the fields change from month to month, what grows in them and how much effort it takes.” (Wioletta, PL, 33)
EIT Food has been studying consumer trust in the food chain since 2018, and this is the latest report we have published on this important issue. The knowledge we gained from previous studies was used to inform the dialogue in the CPF and enabled us to focus the discussion on specific topics.
Fabienne Ruault, Public Engagement Programme Manager said: “This is an incredibly important study. We know that trust plays an important role in the food system, and we are working with consumers to explore what that means to them. We need to reconnect people with their food in order to build trust. Insights from consumers who have engaged with the CPF are helping us to identify ways of doing this. This is going to help us to future-proof our food, ensuring healthy and sustainable food for all.”
Explore our blog, 'What is the state of consumer trust in the European agrifood industry?'.
Listen to the Food Fight podcast: Can we trust the food we eat?
Read more about the EIT Food Trust Report 2020