With an estimated 2 million people tuning in to his syndicated TV show each weekday, there’s no doubting the clout Dr. Oz carries in the arena of public opinion. Add to that 3.78 million Twitter followers and more than 5.5 million Facebook page “likes,” and the good doctor reaches a sizable audience with his opinions on everything from beating bad breath to cutting cancer risk.
But when consumers were asked whom they most trust on controversial food issues, the ratings for Dr. Oz fell flat, according to the latest U.S. consumer trust research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI).
In the survey, “Cracking the Code on Food Issues: Insights from Moms, Millennials and Foodies,” respondents were asked to rate their level of trust with a number of sources when it comes to the issue of genetically modified foods. University scientist was the top trusted source, followed by a scientist who is also a mom, and then a farmer.
Dr. Oz came in second-to-last place on a list of 11 sources, edging out celebrity chefs.
When further segmented, Oz was dead last among millennials and foodies, and next to last among moms.
On the issue of antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans, family doctor was the most trusted source, followed by university scientist and mom scientist. Once again, Dr. Oz came in last.
“It goes to show that ‘celebrity’ doesn’t equal ‘credibility.’ You don’t need a national TV show to be a trusted source when it comes to how food is produced today,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO of The Center for Food Integrity. “The voices of farmers, mom scientists and university scientists matter. The research is clear: consumers are looking to credible sources for balanced information so they can make informed decisions.”
As a trusted messenger, the first step to effective communication – particularly when it comes to controversial and scientific issues in agriculture and food – is building relationships based on shared values, according to CFI research.
“Too often the food system resorts to, ‘If we just give consumers more information, they’ll come to our side,’ but that approach doesn’t work,” said Arnot. “Our research clearly tells us that when consumers realize that the values of those in agriculture and food production are aligned with theirs – that each cares about the same things, like safe food, responsible production and quality animal care – they are more willing to consider information on an issue as personal as the food they feed their families.”
In fact, the CFI consumer trust research shows that sharing values is three-to-five times more important to building trust than simply demonstrating technical expertise or sharing information.
Building trust is a process, focused on identifying important audiences and using values to engage in conversations with them where they are. CFI’s research shows most consumers search for food system information online, so that engagement can and should take place both in person and online.
“When you do engage, be a good neighbor when you ‘move in’ to their communities and remember that how you choose to engage will determine how your new neighbors respond,” said Arnot. “Don’t be ‘that guy’ with the loudest voice and strongest opinions.”
Research shows it’s not the loudest voice, or the biggest celebrities, that have the most influence. Yes, consumers value credentials and expertise, but they most trust those who demonstrate that they care.
CFI’s “Cracking the Code on Food Issues: Insights from Moms, Millennials and Foodies” can be downloaded at www.foodintegrity.org.
CFI is a not-for-profit organization with members that represent every segment of the food system. CFI does not lobby or advocate for individual food companies or brands. Participating organizations represent the diversity of the food system, from farmers and ranchers to universities, NGOs, restaurants, food companies, retailers and food processors.