The Food Marketing Institute Foundation said it was partnering with other trade groups across the food, agriculture and consumer goods sectors to address emerging food issues in an effort to create an "environment of trust and consumer confidence in purchase decisions."
FMI said the Unified Voice Protocol would offer a new approach to the food, agriculture and consumer goods sectors that will help member companies make sales, production and retail decisions.
As part of the effort, FMI partnered with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Animal Agriculture Alliance to develop and fund its first pilot project, which studied the power of "sustainability-related poultry production practices" with a focus on cage-free eggs and slow-growth broilers.
The research, conducted by Jayson Lusk, food and agricultural economist at Purdue University, examined consumer beliefs, knowledge and willingness to pay for specific attributes, such as cage-free eggs and slow-growth broilers.
Leslie Sarasin, president of the FMI Foundation and president and CEO of the FMI, called the project a "positive first step in helping ensure the food and agricultural industry is responding to actual consumer preferences," adding that it "furthers FMI’s role and responsibility to serve as the voice of the food retail industry.”
“It is important to understand the drivers for consumers’ decisions in the marketplace,” she said.
Lusk’s research team surveyed more than 2,000 respondents who were asked to make a series of choices among products that vary in price, production practices, labeling claims, product color and appearance.
Going forward, FMI will seek input from leaders of the food, agricultural and advocacy industries on "identifying other emerging issues and potential Unified Voice topics of interest," and will consider the suggestions as upcoming case studies in an effort to "ensure the food and agricultural industries are making informed decisions regarding research, production and retail sales," company officials said.
"This research is a key component in the effort to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork," said Kay Johnson Smith, Animal Agriculture Alliance president and CEO. "Understanding consumer purchasing values can help food companies and the agriculture industry connect with customers and start meaningful conversations about animal welfare and sustainability."
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