In the last blog I discussed the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. This topic basically revolves around societal, economic and financial (or triple bottom line) variables and how they impact stakeholders. Whether you’re a private or public company, your customers expect you to act in a certain way with regard to your stakeholders. With the transparent society we live in today, thanks to cell phones and social media, everything companies do and say is public and immediate.
A big part of CSR revolves around food safety. This was pre-pandemic and is even more important now! As we move into the third year of COVID, think about all the ways the world has changed and how consumers have changed. The 4 key consumer drivers over the past 25 years have been:
- Saves me time
- Saves me money
- Entertains me
- Is good for me
We can now add a 5th one around safety. This would include how they buy food, where they “get” food, how the food is delivered, consumed and disposed. For example, seeing people eat at a fine restaurant inside a plastic bubble would not be considered odd in 2022, but would have been in 2019!
As consumers, we all assume that the companies that make the products we use and consume are doing everything within their power to ensure that they are safe. How consumers view your company is critical to your long-term success. If they are happy, they will support you. If they are not, they will let you and the world know how they feel. Think of how much technology and social media have influenced how we make decisions every day as consumers.
A great example of this is Chipotle. A few years ago, the brand went from a “best in class” example of marketing to millennials to a brand that waited too long to address food safety concerns for their customers. Think about all the recalls around salmonella or listeria among others, or products that are mislabeled.
Whether you are an on-premise or an off-premise retailer, you need to “see” how your customers view your business. It all starts with the products that you sell to your customers. Do you know how the products are produced? Do the type of ingredients matter to your customers? Is natural, organic, GMO free, allergen free or locally sourced important? If so, what are you doing to tell your customers?
Many companies use various chemicals & natural products in the manufacturing, sanitation, & packaging process. While we need these things for a variety of reasons, they typically have drawbacks and side effects. If you’re making any “claims” you need to make sure that everything involved in your supply chain process is checked out, validated and approved by the appropriate people inside (QA/QC) and on-site management teams (both front & back of house).
A great way to address food safety is to “walk” your store, bar or restaurant from the front to the back just like your customers do. We all know that a dirty bathroom is not a good sign for customers or for food safety. What about the ice machine? When is the last time you cleaned it? How about your food prep/storage area, coolers, walk in, counter tops, bar area and tables? You need to check all of the areas that consumers see and don’t see. There are a variety of food safety solutions that address these areas.
Many people use “first cost” as the basis to make their decisions as they view this as an expense instead of insurance. Take all of the things that need to happen from time, convenience, safety and effectiveness into account to make an informed decision.
One wrong decision can cost you, short term & long term.
You need to make sure you understand how the products you sell are produced, stored and shipped from a food safety perspective. If you take a stakeholder view of your business, it will positively impact your bottom line!
And remember, Marketing is a race with no finish line.
George Latella teaches Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food marketing which is one of the largest majors at Saint Joseph’s University is celebrating its 60th anniversary. George does Sales & Marketing consulting & is also a partner in Beacon Marketing group which provides Marketing planning, research, and e-commerce/direct marketing communications for food and beverage companies. George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-660-2254.