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Beyond the Label: Trust in Technology Requires Diverse Engagement

There’s only so much space on a food label. With ESG pressures increasing, there’s angst in board rooms as executives mull over how to communicate key attributes to earn trust with consumers who have a growing list of demands about how food is grown, raised and produced.

Specifically, when it comes to communicating about technology in food like gene editing, new research shows consumers are looking beyond the label. They’re open to information from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats.

The study, conducted by The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) with support from the United Soybean Board, determined what factors cause consumers to accept or reject technology in agriculture and food. It examined attitudes around gene editing in plants and animals, plant-based meat alternatives and cell-based (cultured) meat.

(To learn more about research results, read Why Consumers Accept or Reject Ag and Food Technology and The Path to Trust for Gene Editing in Plants and Animals)

The research also surveyed consumers about their preferred sources of information and where they want to find information about technology.

Preferred Information

There isn’t a single source of information that meets the needs of all consumers. No matter what the topic, consumers are accustomed to accessing information today in a variety of ways. The research shows when it comes to technology in food, it’s no different.

Consumers are equally interested in – and will access information on –  third-party and government websites and food labels, and via apps. Food company websites ranked slightly lower. Surprisingly, QR codes and other technology on packaging that’s accessed with a smartphone ranked last. It doesn’t mean this type of technology can’t be used, but it doesn’t rank as high as other sources. The shift to QR codes to access menus at restaurants during the pandemic may increase the willingness to use this technology in the future.

The research shows that independent research on the safety of technology for human consumption over time is the most important source of information for building trust. In other words, consumers want to know – from an independent source – the long-term effects of the food they’re eating.

In addition, consumers want:

  • Ready access to information on which foods have been created using technology.
  • Ready access to third-party audits of food companies on the impact of the technology on consumer health.
  • For cell-based (cultured) meat specifically, independent research on the nutritional value.

The research results are good news for food manufacturers who want to preserve label space for marketing claims.  Consumers clearly indicate they are willing to look at a variety of sources to find the information they need. The key to building trust is a genuine commitment to transparency and sharing the information relevant to consumers through a variety of channels.

If you’d like to learn more about the research and how to earn trust in technology for existing technology or innovations in the pipeline, let’s connect.

Reach us at Also, consider a tailored Engage: Earn Trust in Technology training to equip your team with the skills and confidence to effectively engage.