This special session was organised by EUFIC to stimulate a dialogue on the sustainability of the current food systems.
Malou Reipurth from EUFIC presented the results of the first wave of data collected by the EIT Food TrustTracker® in five European countries (Germany, Spain, France, Poland, and the United Kingdom) in 2018. The TrustTracker® maps European consumers’ trust in the food value chain and its actors. According to these results, and despite specific country variations, European consumers trust farmers the most, followed by retailers and have the lowest trust in government authorities. Consumers are most confident in the taste and safety of their food but don’t show particular confidence in their sustainability. Meanwhile, European consumers are slightly more concerned about sustainable living than the healthiness of their diet. “With this first round of results from the TrustTracker®”, says Malou, “we have been able to demonstrate how the openness of food system actors, in terms of their transparency and honesty, is of primary importance in establishing consumer trust and getting consumers on board with innovations. This is very useful information, especially for stakeholders who wish to increase consumers’ trust in them and their brand.”
Dr Betty Chang, from EUFIC, explained her research for the SMARTCHAIN project on how we can strengthen short food supply chains (SFSCs). She presented the results of 32 expert stakeholder interviews conducted in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Belgium and at the EU level. The results suggest that the sales of local products can be increased by justifying their higher prices, and increasing convenience by making SFSC products more available, and emphasising what consumers care about when communicating to them. For example, the health and environmental benefits, the fact that these products support the local community or their ‘naturalness’. On the other hand, she highlighted that more consumer engagement activities (e.g. agritourism, inviting schools to farms) are needed to attract and educate consumers. “Price and inconvenience are the main barriers to buy SFSCs’ products.” says Betty, “The price of SFSC products can be justified through selective taxation, certification, and by explaining the benefits of SFSC to consumers. Inconvenience can be decreased by having a wider range of SFSC products in one place and setting up more points of sale, particularly at supermarkets.”
Dr. Gunnar Vittersø from the Oslo Metropolitan University and Prof Edward Majewski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences talked about the sustainability of short food supply chains. As part of the Strength2Food project analysis in six European countries (FR, HU, IT, NO, PL and the UK) to assess the practices of multiple supply chain actors, and a quantitative analysis to compare the impacts of SFSCs to that of mainstream ‘longer’ retail alternatives. The qualitative findings suggest that consumers’ motivation to purchase foods from SFSCs derives from a perceived higher quality of food and their support of local production. It also highlights that SFSCs can provide important social benefits for all types of actors, e.g. strengthen local identity, support for the local economy, reciprocity and mutual trust among supply chain actors. However, participants had mixed views regarding the economic and environmental benefits. “The strength of SFSCs is the closeness (social and/or geographical) between production and consumption”, says Gunnar Vittersø, “It provides better transparency and consequently increased trust between the various participants in the food chain.”
The quantitative results confirmed that producers participate simultaneously in several short and long supply chains and that participation in SFSCs offers better economic advantages by capturing a larger proportion of margin otherwise absorbed by different intermediaries. The evidence appeared less clear-cut regarding environmental impacts. This is because SFCS can incur a large number of journeys by individual consumers who transport relatively small quantities of food at a time. Regardless, the social (consumers) and economic (farmers) benefits are strong incentives to search for new market niches and innovative supply and communication solutions within short food supply chains.
On 13 November, EUFIC participated in the 33rd EFFoST Conference in Rotterdam by holding the project session ‘Engaging consumers for a better food value chain’ and presenting the results from three research projects funded by EU
For more information, contact Davide Carrino from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), tel +32 483 673198