Longitudinal Effort To Measure Consumer Beliefs, Trends
May 08, 2017
Farmers have been working hard to educate consumers on issues from animal welfare to seed technology. The results of these efforts are unclear, since there is no longitudinal effort to measure consumer beliefs or trends.
Longitudinal means using the same polling methods regularly over several years, so that we can compare current results to previous ones. There are many surveys being done, but no effort is made to be consistent.
We need repeated, identical efforts, like the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, which tries to duplicate the same route and sampling techniques every time. The result would be instead of a snapshot of consumer attitudes; we could be discovering how those attitudes have changed.
But consumers should not be our entire focus if we want to affect popular trends in food production.
The deciding votes are increasing being cast by enormous food processing companies like Unilever or McDonalds, and more recently the massive investment firms like pension funds that influence the food industry.
Investor activism at pension and hedge funds is having a big impact on the animal antibiotic issue, for example. Persuading billion-dollar investment fund executives is a much more challenging project than speaking to shoppers at a grocery store or meeting.
It will require a big step away from our comfort zone, as well as an attitude adjustment toward these financial behemoths. We will need new routes to contact decision-makers, more rigorous arguments, and above all a better appreciation for the big picture of the food industry.
And these days the most important aspect about the players in our food chain is just that: big.