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EIT Food TrustTracker®

Research has shown that consumers do not understand or trust in the food industry. This is thought to be driven by the gap between what consumers want and what the food industry provides.

2018
2021

EIT Food TrustTracker®

The EIT Food TrustTracker® is an evidenced-based questionnaire that has been developed to measure consumer trust in the food industry and is an important first step towards understanding this gap. It will provide valuable insights which will be used to enhance consumer trust in the food value chain.

 

Introduction to the TrustTracker®

Consumer trust in the food system is complex because it involves many different actors: retailers, manufacturers, government authorities, and farmers all play a role.

The TrustTracker® maps European consumers’ trust in the food value chain and its different actors – from farm to fork to policy. Based on scientific insights, a model for measuring consumer trust has been developed. This evidence-based tool looks at differences within countries and by actors. The data is tracked annually to monitor developments and compare trust levels over time. 

When trust is strong, we are able to get consumers on board with innovations and plant-based diets that can move the EU towards a healthier and more sustainable food system.

Our methodology is transparent and available to everyone.

What happened so far

Starting out with five core European countries (DE, ES, FR, PL, and UK) in 2018, data in 2019 have been collected in 13 EU countries (BE, CH, DE, DK, ES, FR, FI, IE, IL, IT, NL, PL, UK). In 2020, a total of 18 countries (BE, CH, CZ, DE, DK, ES, FI, FR, GR, IE, IL, IT, NL, PL, PT, RO, TR, UK) were surveyed, covering more areas of the European Union. Finally, the same 18 countries were included in the 2021 survey.

Main findings across the years

EIT Food’s TrustTracker® has found that for European consumers, the openness of food system actors – their activities, the information they offer, and their honesty – as well their perceived competence is of primary importance in establishing and maintaining trust.

When trust is higher, European consumers are more confident in their food and the technologies with which these have been produced.

Findings on trust:

  • European consumers ­trust farmers most, followed by retailers.
  • Finnish, Spanish, and British consumers were among the top three countries with the highest levels of trust in food actors in all four years.
  • French, German, and Belgian consumers showed significantly lower levels of trust towards others in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 and 2021, Czechs and Turks are among the consumers with the lowest levels of social trust.

Findings on confidence in food and technology:

  • European consumers are most confident in their food’s taste and safety (followed by healthiness, authenticity, and sustainability).
  • Similarly, European consumers are also most confident that food technologies help produce safe and tasty foods.
  • British and Italian consumers are most confident in the integrity of food technology, especially the safety and tastiness.
  • British and Finnish consumers are most confident in the integrity of their food.

How it works

Each year, the TrustTracker® will build on the previous years’ data to track changes in EU consumers’ levels of trust in aspects of the food system. People who exhibit trust in the food value chain (and its actors) are more confident about food integrity and food technology integrity. Food integrity includes taste, safety, health, authenticity, and sustainability. So far, no study has made such an explicit link between trust and its effects.

EIT Food partners University of Reading (project lead), the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), Aarhus University, KU Leuven, and the University of Warsaw developed the model behind the TrustTracker® tool. This model is designed to measure consumer trust in the food system, determinants of trust, beliefs in the trustworthiness of food actors – in their care, competence, and openness – and the effects of trust on consumer confidence in foods and food technologies.

The model looks at how determinants of trust lead to consumer trust in the food system (comprised of beliefs about trustworthiness and trust in the actors of the food system), and how this leads to confidence in food and technology integrity. Additionally, it suggests that trust influences the relationship between consumer motivations (e.g., living a healthy or sustainable lifestyle) and their intentions and behaviour. 

Information from the TrustTracker® can be used by food producers, manufacturers, retailers, and policy makers to map and monitor European trust levels over time, to identify gaps in trust, and to understand how to improve the relationship with consumers. This can lead to a more trusted, reliable, and stronger food system. In the future, the TrustTracker® can be expanded to measure changes in trust in specific food sectors and brands and can look at how to repair trust that is lost.

Additionally, a series of focus groups in each country, called the Citizen Participation Forum, explore each year’s TrustTracker® survey results in more detail. Between 150-200 participants in each country are selected in a way that balances urban vs. rural and age ranges. This dialogue provides more in-depth detail behind why consumers respond the way they do in the survey in each country.

 

The TrustTracker®  - a graphical overview

Partners

Project lead

Anna Macready Pic

Anna Macready

University of Reading