About Linda Eatherton

Linda has 25+ years of branded and commodity food experience leading marketing communications programs, CEO and corporate counsel, reputation management, issues and crisis management, reputation management and shareholder relations programs.

Author Archive | Linda Eatherton

Talking Tech and Transparency in the Food Industry: The Never-Ending Journey Forward

The road to transparency in the food industry is not a destination; it’s a never-ending journey for companies and consumers.

As I get ready to take part in a panel on supply chain transparency at Future Food-Tech in San Francisco later this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what our clients, and the food industry in general, are talking about: how to effectively communicate with consumers in this era of food technology innovation. We recently penned a white paper that digs into the topic, and I’ll be sharing more about this delicate communication balance at the conference.

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Food 2020: The Transparency Paradox of the Food eVangelist

Food eVangelists – small group, BIG influence?
Skepticism of the food industry—based on the belief that it is motivated by self-interest—has resulted in the creation of an influential group of consumer advocates who are passionately driving a movement to challenge and change the industry. We call them the Food eVangelists. In the most recent findings of Ketchum’s Food 2020 Survey, the fourth in the proprietary global research series conducted by Ketchum’s Food & Beverage and Global Research & Analytics groups, we track the expectations of Food eVangelists and get a glimpse into the future (click to tweet).

Success in the food industry today, more than any other business sector, is a reflection of how much trust has been built between company, brand and consumer. The irony is that as people demand and get more information, they often find it difficult to understand. And this confusion leads to even greater skepticism.

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Food eVangelism Is An Opportunity Not a Problem

Food eVangelism Is An Opportunity Not a Problem

I found myself nodding furiously as I read a recent New York Times article about how consumers are successfully pressuring food companies to make changes to their products, as it affirms so many of the findings in our own Food 2020 research. In particular, it shows how Food eVangelists – a term we coined to describe a growing and powerful segment of the global population who take it upon themselves to learn about food issues and influence others – are making a mark on the food industry and they are not about to stop.

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Yesterday U.S. voters in California voted “NO” to Proposition 37. This proposition called for all foods made with genetically engineered (“GE”) or ‘biotech’ ingredients sold in California to be labeled in a way that alerts consumers. The assumptions behind this proposition were that the process or ingredients used to make GE foods were somehow different and/or hazardous and that consumers have a “right to know” such information in a readily available and accessible manner on product labels.

Who could argue with that? Doesn’t every consumer want and expect to have a right to know what is in their food?

California voters rejected the proposal because of the efforts of Prop 37 opponents to educate the public about the many problems with this proposed law. A broad spectrum of food industry stakeholders from agriculture, processing and manufacturing marshaled resources to reveal the folly in the proposal and defeat it.

Game over? Not so much.

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Food for Thought: The Importance of Greater Transparency Has Never Been Clearer

The food industry has always been driven to out-innovate, out-sell, and out-perform all of its competitors. These core drivers underpin not only what they make and market but also how they operate as a business. The concept is rather simple and it has worked incredibly well for decades where free enterprise reigns.

But, lately free enterprise is being buffeted by challenges of growing magnitude. Groups pushing for more humane treatment of animals used in our food supply are driving the food industry to form strange bedfellows with activists as partners. And, in recent news, there have been calls for activists to join boards of directors to serve as change-agents.

Concerns about additives, chemicals and unfamiliar processes used to grow and make our food are pressuring corporations to be more explicit and open about sharing the inner workings of food production. The ‘right to know’ movement in California is a clear indication that what we do and how we do it is the consumers’ purview….whether industry likes it or not.

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What Will Consumers Want from Food Companies in 2020?

Today’s consumer is demanding more control over their world. What would the food industry look like if consumers were in charge? In 2008 we put consumers around the world “in charge” and asked them what they want from food manufacturers in the year 2020. 

Ketchum’s “Food 2020: The Consumer as CEO” study revealed how consumers’ view the food industry decisions and decision makers. In 2011 we repeated the study, this time asking c-suite executives, NGOs and analysts what to make of those expectations. This global research reveals just what tomorrow’s shoppers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China and Argentina will demand from our food agriculture, manufacturing and retailing leaders.

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