Main factors that influence consumer trust in food

Consumers have different concerns that influence their preferences when purchasing food. The word cloud below shows the main research areas; the largest words are those that were featured the most and include food safety, behaviour, perception/perceptions, attitude, and information.

A large word cloud that features many words; the mot prominent being attitudes, safety, food, information, determinants, behaviour and willingness to pay consumers

Figure 1. Word cloud showing the main topics that influence trust in food [Source: Key words from 20 most recent research papers (published between 2014-2018) using the search term ‘trust in food’, Web of Science, June 2018] [6].

Researchers have tried to compare the importance of these issues among consumers:

  • Lusk and Briggeman [1] put together a list of ‘food values’ and asked over 200 consumers in the US which they thought was the most important;

    • Naturalness (extent to which food is produced without modern technologies)

    • Taste (extent to which consumption of the food is appealing to the senses)

    • Price (the price that is paid for the food)

    • Safety (extent to which consumption of food will not cause illness)

    • Convenience (ease with which food is cooked and/or consumed)

    • Nutrition (amount and type of fat, protein, vitamins, etc.)

    • Tradition (preserving traditional consumption patterns)

    • Origin (where the agricultural commodities were grown)

    • Fairness (the extent to which all parties involved in the production of the food equally benefit)

    • Appearance (extent to which food looks appealing)

    • Environmental Impact (effect of food production on the environment)

They found that the values of safety, nutrition, taste and price were most important, whereas the values of fairness, tradition, and origin were among the least important.

  • The European study conducted as part of the Trust in Food in Europe project [2,3,4] investigated whether people felt things had changed recently in the following ‘dimensions’ of trust in food:

    • Prices
    • Quality
    • Farming methods
    • Health
    • Safety

The results showed that consumers were most concerned about food prices and felt there had been a decline in the quality and taste of food. However, food safety was considered to have improved.

  • In a study in the UK, consumers were found to consider healthy food and minimal processing to be of most importance but they were also keen to ensure that farmers are paid a fair price too. However, price, origin and whether it was grown locally were of less overall concern [5].

As this quick review shows, there are many different areas of concern when considering trust in food and some concerns are more important to some people than others. However, across all of these issues, consumers need to feel reassured and to know where to look for reliable information. Later on in the course you’ll explore how the food industry currently provides information to ensure consumers can have trust in their food, and you’ll consider whether this is good enough or if there’s room for improvement.

Consider the factors described in this Step. Which ones are of great importance to you and why? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

For the full list of references please see under ‘Downloads’ found at the bottom of this Step.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Trust in Our Food: Understanding Food Supply Systems

EIT Food