Consumers Trust Advocacy Groups, Grocers Most Of All

Consumers have more faith in consumer advocacy groups and their local supermarkets than they do the government or companies when it comes to finding useful information about food choices, according to a new study commissioned by food and agriculture communications company Morgan & Myers.

According to the survey, which was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media, nearly two-thirds (64%) of the respondents said advocates and activist groups are reliable sources of information. Retail grocers were also considered reliable by 62% of the respondents, and food manufacturers were seen positively by 53%. But the government ranked fourth, with 47% of respondents considering them reliable. The government ranked ahead of only fast-food companies, which received only a 22% positive response.

Bob Giblin, a research director for the Waukesha, Wisc. agency, tells Marketing Daily that the results of the study are not particularly surprising. "Trust in government as an institution doesn't seem to be tracking well in almost every study we've looked at," he says, noting it has an "uphill battle" to build the public's trust. "Activists and non-governmental organizations seem to be tracking high."



Particularly high is the category of consumers tagged as "influentials" (i.e., potential thought leaders who can influence others' decisions). Nearly three out of four influentials identified activists as having the consumer's best interest in mind. "It's an acknowledgment that the activists have the ear of the consumer more than the food companies," Giblin says.

The survey was conducted as part of a larger poll commissioned by the Worldcom Public Relations Group, a network of independent public relations consulting firms of which Morgan & Myers is a member. The larger survey found further erosion in the public's confidence in government regulation when it comes to food.

According to the survey, food safety ranked fifth out of six categories in having adequate regulations in place--behind cars, consumer electronics, clothing and pharmaceuticals. With only half of the respondents saying they were confident in the regulations, the only category lower than food was toy safety. In the survey, only 46% felt the government has adequate food safety regulations in place for meat, and 48% felt seafood was adequately regulated.

Despite those concerns--and despite recent public recalls for ground beef and other food products--food manufacturers still hold a higher value for consumers than the government. "One of the things about a recall--particularly a voluntary recall--is that it's an acknowledgement of a breakdown in product quality and there are some moves being made to make it right," Giblin says.

Elsewhere in the survey, Giblin says he was surprised to find fast-food companies were held in such low esteem in consumers' minds. "They're doing a lot and not getting a lot of credit for it," Giblin says, adding: "It's an industry that has a lot of exposure and is one that's easy to bash."

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