Adjusting our Optics on the Consumer

Dec 28, 2017

By: David Fikes, Vice President, Communications & Consumer/Community Affairs, Food Marketing Institute
Consumer Affairs 2017

Photographers rely on a number of techniques to guide our eyes to the true subject matter of the picture. Framing, lighting, and focus are all tools skilled photographers engage to help sharpen our attention, direct our gaze and better recognize their vision.

Without a doubt, the way we see food retail is changing; the industry landscape has broadened, the lighting has shifted, and rapid movements have made most everything a bit blurrier.  These changes are requiring savvy food retailers to adjust viewpoints, fine tune lenses, and widen apertures in order to keep the customer the meaningful focus of the food retail picture. FMI’s 2017 work in clarifying shopper expectations of transparency, addressing consumer concerns and highlighting community service helped  better frame the food retail picture and sharpened industry focus on  the customer’s craving of personalized service.

A Clearly Defined Label

In February, FMI and GMA announced an industry-wide call for volunteer adoption of two sets of product code date labeling language to streamline the range of code date labels now in use down to two. This effort reflects the attempt to reduce consumer label confusion that can lead to food waste. The recommended guidance calls for “Best If Used By” to be utilized on labels for shelf stable items, when the date is for communicating quality issues, and “Use By” for those limited items when material degradation of product performance is a consideration.

This initiative is part of a larger drive to bring transparency and greater clarity to consumers about the products they purchase. This point is made clear in two documents related to the Product Code Date Labeling initiative that were released in 2017. The first, a white paper, offers general background, context and resources regarding the date-label initiative. The second document provides specific and detailed implementation guidance for manufacturers and retailers in adopting the voluntary industry standard nomenclature for Product Code Date Labels. Both documents are free to download here.

Aligning our Sights with those of the Consumer

In the face of activist pressure for food retailers to adopt a single set of animal welfare standards pertaining to broiler chickens, FMI’s Board of Directors recently approved a policy endorsing the competitive value of having a variety of animal welfare standards.  The board upheld that these standards must operate in accord with the five animal freedoms, must remain current with ongoing scientific study and must enable retailers to represent the values of their customers. Just as retailers seek to provide their customers with product choices that align with the shoppers’ values, food retailers seek to have choices among various standards, from  which they may choose those best aligning with company values, customer choice and market viability.

Perspective from our Trusted Advisors

The wide ranging topics discussed by the Consumer Affairs and Communications Council this year included, but were not limited to: the FMI Foundation’s third National Family Meals Month™ campaign; Retail Contributions to Health and Wellness; FMI trends research, such as U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends and U.S. Food Retailing Industry Speaks; animal welfare and sustainability issues concerning broiler chickens and cage-free eggs; product code date labeling; media and ethics discussions; emerging issues input; fostering talent in the food retail industry; government and regulatory updates specific to menu labeling, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the concept of politicized products under the new Administration; and broader issues like international labor rights.

Chronicling the Stories of Grocers Doing Good

FMI again hosted our annual Community Outreach Awards as a means of recognizing the key community involvement aspect  of the noble cause of food retail. We congratulate our 2017 award recipients:

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