FOOD CHAIN TRANSPARENCY
The following is an edited transcript of the Ag Future podcast episode , hosted by Tom Martin , that features Marianne Smith Edge . Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts
Marianne Smith Edge is a food , agriculture and consumer insight strategist and founder of The AgriNutritionEdge , where she serves as a translator between the consumer and the ag space to bring more food transparency to the food chain and improve food perception among consumers . She shares her insights on building trust with consumers by providing the security of safe and healthy food .
Greetings , Marianne . First , if you would , just tell us about your work as both a farmer and one who advises the ag community on matters of communication .
Well , I grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Kentucky , so I definitely have strong roots in the dairy industry . And at this point , I don ’ t do day-to-day work in farming , but in the Owensboro area ( of Kentucky ), my husband and I do own farmland , where soybeans and corn are grown . So , I definitely have a vested interest and ( am ) very involved in the agricultural area .
I think , with that background , along with my ( being ) professionally trained as a registered dietician and having worked in consumer insights over the years , it really does allow me to interact across the food value chain on communications . And especially in the ag community , it ’ s so important to really remind and work with the ag community on understanding the need to communicate what is being done and has been done over the years on moving forward and preserving land and sustainability .
You know , to many non-farm individuals , the perception of sustainability is almost viewed as a new concept , and even though we look at it in different lenses today , we know that , ultimately , we are where we are today because farming has always looked at the preservation of farmland for future generations .
Well , Marianne , it seems like we can ’ t talk about anything ( these days ) without talking about the pandemic . And , of course , it ’ s been with us long enough now for us as consumers to settle into some health and food consumption trends and habits . And I wonder : What ’ s your perspective on trends that have emerged from the conditions of the pandemic in 2020 ?
Well , definitely , the emergence of returning to one ’ s own kitchen as a necessity , of course , has emerged . We saw , by the end of the last year , that over 80 % of individuals said that they were cooking at home .
But the good news is that we see that individuals say that , even though there is some cooking fatigue , they are continuing . And even though we were hearing about the “ COVID 15 ” — somewhat like the ( dreaded ) college “ freshman 15 ” — over a third of consumers basically said they were cooking more healthfully .
From that , we saw that online shopping , of course , ( which many people decided ) to do through necessity , jumped at an all-time rate , at a much higher rate than any retail ( provider ) had ever anticipated . And as well as — when you ’ re looking at trends from food , we see that individuals definitely want to connect to more local sources — and many times , especially in produce , we saw a considerable jump in looking at organics .
Has this opened up opportunities or expanded the market for small farms , and particularly those that are involved in CSAs , in community-supported agriculture and , you know , the weekly order of greens and so forth that we ’ re able to get ? Have you seen any increase in that area ?
Yes . We definitely have seen an increase in this particular area . And I can use a friend and a farm-to-consumer meat processing business in this area as an F1 example ( I ’ ve written about it in some of my blogs ). Even though he had gained a good audience through farmer ’ s markets over the last few years , suddenly , that increase for wanting locally produced and processed meat grew rapidly — especially in that April and May ( period ), when all our meat consumption seemed to increase and availability wasn ’ t as prevalent . And the good news is that trend has continued .
So , again , folks really want to be able to connect to food and know where food comes from . And I think there ’ s also that sense of security and overall safety appeal — that if they know where their food comes from , there is an assurance that , one , it will always be there , and ( two ), that it ’ s safe and I , you know , trust the person who is producing it .
4 THE FEEDING TIMES