PwC: Food sector can build consumer trust through technology

01 October 2019 2 min. read

As consumers increasingly demand to know what they’re eating and drinking, where it came from, how it was grown, and how it was processed, new technology holds the key to retaining consumer trust. PwC Canada’s Saveurs 2019 report examined how technology can answer demands for food safety, transparency, and sustainability.

According to the report, food and beverage companies are becoming more attuned to the importance of consumer trust in brand building efforts.

Transparency is central to trust-building, and new technologies are unlocking the possibility of conveying the supply chain journey to consumers. Blockchain, for example, can track products throughout the supply chain and trace food products, and companies can choose to be more forward with sharing this data. A number of firms in Canada are already developing smart labels that can store detailed information on products which can be viewed on smartphones or computers, the report says.

Aside from transparency efforts, technology can also boost operational efficiency and quality control; use cases include advanced sensors to monitor refrigeration systems in shipment and storage, automated greenhouses to boost production, and the use of drones to scan for crop-damaging insects.

Food sector can build consumer trust through technology

"By sharing data via the Internet of Things, businesses are becoming more efficient and transparent throughout the value chain,” Myles Gooding, national retail and consumer leader, PwC Canada, said. “In addition, they are telling their story with an eye to developing and maintaining consumers' trust."

Transparency is increasingly important as consumers become more attuned to sustainability and their environmental footprint. Sixty-five percent of Canadian respondents said they were willing to pay more for locally sourced foods, 46% said they would pay more for organic food, and 40% said they would pay more for sustainable packaging.

British Columbian respondents were the most keen, with 73% willing to pay a premium for locally-produced food, 53% for organic, and 37% for sustainably produced products. Prince Edward Islanders were the least keen, with 43% willing to pay a premium for local products, 14% for organic, and 29% for sustainably produced food and beverages.

The global average figures from the PwC study were 66% committed to locally produced food, 54% to organic produce, and 44% to sustainable packaging.

"In the face of changing behaviour, what kind of stand should companies take? It is important for them to remain true to their values and, through their transparency efforts, to uphold the values they promote,” said Marc-Stéphane Pennee, assurance and food and beverage leader for Quebec at PwC Canada. “By defining and remaining true to their mission and values, businesses can help create a client base that stays loyal to their brand.”