CFI Brings Ag and Food Together to Earn Consumer Trust

July 11, 2022 Ohio Soybean Council

We’ve all seen the shift. Today’s consumer has a heightened interest about food — where it comes from, who’s producing it and how, and the impact on people, animals and the planet. We’ve also seen the proliferation of misinformation about how food is produced. Throw in a pandemic, supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine, inflation, soaring fuel prices and stores with bare shelves, and consumer curiosity and skepticism about food has quickly turned to deep concern.

In this environment, it’s imperative that agriculture and food double down to engage with the public to earn trust in a food system that’s continually innovating and working to produce safe, healthy, abundant food in more sustainable ways. Without trust, agriculture and food lose their “social license” – or public permission to continue to produce.

That’s why the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) joined The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) 12 years ago, to gather around the table with others in agriculture and food to build this trust. OSC Chairman Jeff Magyar currently serves on the CFI board as the United Soybean Board representative. OSC Executive Director Kirk Merritt has served on the CFI board for several years and currently serves as the board treasurer.

CFI is a not-for-profit organization whose more than 150 members and project partners represent the diversity of today’s food system — from farmers, ranchers and food companies to universities, non-governmental organizations, restaurants, retailers and food processors. The organization, celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2022, doesn’t lobby or advocate on behalf of any brand, company or food production method. It simply works to ensure consumers have the balanced information they need about food to make informed choices that are right for them and their families.

CFI does this in several ways, including:

  • Initiating and facilitating public discussion on food issues as a neutral third party
  • Developing deep consumer insights through its knowledge, networks and continuous research that reveals consumer attitudes, motivations, behaviors and trends
  • Providing strategic direction and training to improve alignment between the food system and consumers
  • Convening, empowering and supporting its members to develop best practices in earning trust
  • Connecting members with others across the food chain for deeper discussion and learnings

CFI is known for its peer-reviewed and published consumer trust model, which shows that engaging with consumers on shared values is the key to earning trust, and its consumer research that helps the food industry develop policies and practices, and communication and consumer outreach strategies.

The trust model and research are foundational to all its programs, trainings and initiatives, including the Engage shared values training and Engage: Earn Trust in Technology training, the Optimizing Sustainability framework, which gives food system stakeholders tools to evaluate the growing list of sustainability priorities to determine the impact of potential decisions, and the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture. The Coalition recently launched a voluntary framework to increase transparency and stakeholder engagement to build trust in the products derived through gene editing and those using them. This is just a small sample of what CFI does for the food industry and we’re proud to play a part.

By gathering around the table with farm and food organizations through CFI, the Ohio Soybean Council is more empowered than ever before to earn trust in Ohio soybean farmers and U.S. Soy. We have a great story to tell and CFI provides the resources, tools and networks to help us share it.