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Paul Chang, Worldwide Consumer Products Lead, IBM

By Paul Chang

In a 2010 study conducted for the European Food Safety Authority, 58 percent of a sample of 27,000 consumers across the European Union said they were confident that farmers would convey information on food risks. Their confidence rate for food manufacturers (35 percent) and retailers (36 percent) was much lower.

That’s good news for farmers. But what about the other players in the food supply chain? How can they start improving their confidence rankings? One way, is to start providing more information about their products. Consumers around the globe are growing increasingly savvy and increasingly hungry for information. So why not give it to them?

Of course, consumers don’t want their information delivered any old way. For example, the IBM Institute for Business Value found in its 2011 Winning Over the Empowered Consumer study that 60 percent of 28,000 shoppers surveyed said they wanted to use mobile devices for checkout and service when making purchases.

Westfleisch, the third largest meat marketer in Germanyand the fifth largest in Europe, is embracing this trend with a new smart phone application that uses QR codes on meat packages to enable shoppers to find information about the animal’s origin. Through the app, called fTrace, information about things like, where the animal was slaughtered and when it was packed, is as readily available as recipes and tips on storing the meat safely. The app also enables consumers to access specific information on carbon emissions. fTrace has already been rolled out in the large European discount supermarket chains Aldi Süd and Netto; and the supermarket chain Lidl is set to begin using it this month.

Westfleisch believes that giving smarter customers additional information that was either difficult or impossible to find out heretofore will help build brand loyalty. Greater visibility into products, supply chains and practices, can only improve customer confidence. Equally important is the carbon emissions information, which is stored with all the other data that supports the application.

 In other words, agribusinesses don’t have to guess what it takes to bring home more bacon – consumers have already told them.

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