Perspectives from the 2015 Food Integrity Summit


Deborah Arcoleo
Director Product Transparency, The Hershey Company

The food transparency movement is growing and is driving a healthy dialogue between consumers, business and government. It’s also spurring the creation of smart tools that will empower consumers to be confident about the food choices they make.

Earlier today, I spoke about this important topic and what transparency means for today’s consumer during a panel discussion at the 2015 Food Integrity Summit.

This year’s Food Integrity Summit focused on the relationship between transparency and trust, and helped to clarify the crucial distinction between simply providing more information and making that information more useful, accessible and actionable. It also highlighted the important role that innovative technologies can play moving forward.

The Summit addressed a wide range of topics, but a few key trends rose to the top:

  1. Transparency is a two-way street.
    Like dialogue, transparency goes two ways. Moving forward, it’s vital that companies in the food and beverage industry take a more consumer-centric approach and understand that our role is not to tell, but to listen and start a conversation. Only then can we truly understand each other and have a dialogue about needs and expectations.
  2. Answer the question and keep it simple.
    Consumers aren’t just calling for more transparency, they are asking specific questions. For example, Hershey’s call center gets significantly more inquiries about peanuts or gluten than it does about standard nutrition. Many consumers have allergies or dietary restrictions and there are a growing number of people on special diets, or who have health or ethical concerns. To be impactful, information needs to be easy to find and directly answer the questions most important to consumers.
  3. The limitations of packaging shouldn’t be an excuse.
    Consumers want to know more about their food than can fit on a standard product label, and in our digital culture, feedback moves fast and open source information is expected. Product information needs to be timely, relatable and easy to access to ensure consumers have the information they need to inform their food decisions.

The key take away: Today’s consumers are asking for more transparency than ever before and to keep pace, the food and beverage industry needs innovative solutions to share information openly, candidly and quickly.

At Hershey, we believe that mobile technology is one of the best ways we can provide more transparency. That’s why we’ve spearheaded an industry-wide collaboration to create a universal, mobile solution for food transparency that the industry is calling SmartLabel™. The web-based platform allows consumers to access a wealth of information about ingredients, nutrition facts, allergens, and GMO ingredients – far more information than could ever fit on a product's packaging – by simply scanning a smartphone readable QR code. Better still, the SmartLabel™ can be scanned from any smartphone, without the need to download a special app (see this video for more information about how it works).

With more information, consumers can be more confident in the choices they make about food, and as an industry, we have a responsibility to make this information easy to find – whether that’s through labeling on packaging, information on websites or through new mobile technology.

What types of product information are most important to you? Would you use your mobile device to learn more about everything from ingredients and nutrition facts to allergens?

Conversation is important to us. Let us know what you think in the comments section below!