Do you agree with the following statement: “I have access to all the information I want about where my food comes from, how it’s produced and its safety”? A new study from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) says only a minority of consumers do.

In fact, just 28% of those polled say they strongly agree with that statement, according to CEO Charlie Arnot.

“Having posed this question for eight straight years, we see that food system efforts are paying off as the long-term trend shows more consumers agreeing, but the overall number must rise if the goal is to earn consumer trust,” he says. “The industry still has work to do.”

Deb Arcoleo, director of product transparency at The Hershey Company, says the company is one of several stepping up their transparency efforts. She says CFI’s research makes it clear that transparency is the key to earning and keeping consumer trust.

“It’s about creating an authentic dialogue and meeting consumers where they are,” she says.

The big question then becomes: How do the food and agriculture industries satisfy this appetite for knowledge and transparency?

Arnot contends there is not really a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s in part because consumers tend to crowdsource knowledge and rely on multiple information outlets. Because of that, he says it’s important to use a variety of ways to reach consumers, whether through farm or company websites, social media, promotional campaigns or videos. It has to be easy to understand and easy to engage, too.

“If a consumer has to click several times to get to important information on your website, for example, if it’s too complex, or if you fail to respond to consumer questions quickly, you’re falling short of their expectations,” Arnot says.

When consumers want to know more about food and agriculture production, they don’t want a polished-up version of the process, either, Arnot adds.

“They want the good, the bad and the ugly – and to know that you’re working to resolve issues important to them,” he says.

Learn more about the Center for Food Integrity at www.foodintegrity.org