Debilitating impact of recalls

Less than 20 percent of consumers trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are safe and healthy for themselves and their families, according to an IBM survey of 1000 consumers in (100 each in 10 cities -- Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Washington, DC.) The survey also found consumers are increasingly wary of the safety of food purchased at grocery stores, and their confidence in, and trust of, food retailers, manufacturers and grocers is declining.

A majority (83 percent) of respondents were able to name a food product that was recalled in the past two years due to contamination or other safety concerns. Nearly half (46 percent) named peanut butter, the staple of school lunches for children across the nation, as the most recognizable recall. Spinach came in a distant second, with 15 percent awareness nearly two years after the incident.

Consumers are extra cautious in purchasing food products after a recall. Some 49 percent of are less likely to purchase a food product again if it was recalled due to contamination, 63 percent won’t buy the food until the source of contamination had been found and addressed, and  eight percent will never purchase the food again, even after the source of contamination is found and addressed. These findings underscore how the rise in recalls and contamination has significantly eroded consumer confidence in food and product safety, as well as with the companies that manufacture and distribute these products.

The survey found that over the past two years, consumer appetite for information about food products increased. Consumers want more information about the content of the food products they purchase (77 percent), and 76 percent want more information about its origin, 74 percent are willing to dig deeper and seek more data about how the food products are grown, processed and manufactured. Despite industry efforts to keep consumers informed with more detailed product information, there's still a significant gap between consumer expectations and what retailers/manufacturers are providing.

Consumers are spending more time poring over food labels to know which ingredients were used, questioning supermarkets and product manufactures about product detail, paying closer attention to expiration dates, and doing more in depth background checks on specific food brands and their origin. This will have an even bigger impact as the younger, more Internet savvy generation of consumers evolve into being the primary purchasers of groceries.

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