This article just out in Tech Crunch got me thinking about all the companies that got themselves in some hot water this year as a result of misleading themselves and/or their customers. Two of them - Chipotle and Mast Brothers Chocolate - have taken great pride in their "we're better than other companies" mantra. For Chipotle, it's about their ingredients, the sustainability of their approach to fast casual, the elimination of GMOs. For Mast, it's been about pricey, brooklyn-y, expensive chocolate bars.
Turns out, for all the companies' holier than thou approach to consumer marketing, there have been some serious missteps. Chipotle has had a series of food safety issues, sickening people across the country. Mast, on the other hand, has been accused of using industrial chocolate and overcharging customers for bars that aren't actually all that special.
Which leads me to this - as customers, are we paying solely for marketing we believe in? Are we that sucked in by beautiful packaging, and an idealized approach to eating? And importantly, how do we actually know if what we're getting is the "real deal," recognizing that we are indeed succumbing to certain ideals a company might promote? When customers make purchases based on where their food comes from, the ingredients and the company that produces it, these kinds of outcomes throw a wrench in our decision-making process.
Making decisions about what we eat is hard, and companies are masterful at getting us to choose their brands and create long-term brand loyalty. But consumers are also demanding more transparency, beyond the slogans and hipster-approved food.
In fact, the Center for Food Integrity conducted research in 2015 "A Clear View of Transparency and How it Builds Trust" that detailed out where and how consumers expect increased transparency- among the issues that consumers expect food companies to be transparent about are food safety and business ethics, two findings that fit squarely within the Chipotle/Mast controversies of 2015. Take a look at the report to view the rest of the findings. No doubt companies are taking note, and learning from the missteps of others last year.