Consumers trust food brands, but are not loyal: study

Dive Brief:

  • Food and beverage is the most trusted industry with more than 7 in 10 U.S. adults having faith in these companies, according to the “Most Trusted Brands 2022” report from Morning Consult.
  • The data found that while consumers tend to have long-term relationships with food and beverage brands, they are not afraid to switch when that trust wanes. Morning Consult noted more than 1 in 3 consumers said they have switched food and beverage brands when this occurred — more than any other category.
  • Many of the factors that can cause consumers to lose confidence in a brand — including a decline in product quality, an increase in price, or the fact that it stood for a cause they disagree with — happen regularly today.

Dive Insight:

As food and beverage companies grapple with escalating input costs, supply chain headaches and social issues demanding their attention, how they respond is closely watched by consumers who purchase their brands.

To be sure, food and beverage companies start in an enviable position, with shoppers trusting them more than industries like health care, travel and technology, Morning Consult’s survey of consumers found. This support is especially pronounced among baby boomers (84%) and high-income consumers (82%).

That trust slips among younger consumers — 62% for Gen Z adults and 67% with millennials — the business intelligence firm found. Younger shoppers have high expectations for their interactions with brands, and they tend to be skeptical of marketing efforts. 

Respondents were asked which attributes they ranked as the most important. Baby boomers were soundly behind good value for price, high-quality products and services and consistent delivery on promises. Even though these also were highly valued with Gen Z adults and millennials, younger demographics tended to value more other factors, including good customer service, sustainability and customer reviews.

But despite the favorable backing consumers have for food and beverages, as Morning Consult noted, they are in the most precarious position to lose it.

Not only do these companies have to balance rising costs and appease shareholders by increasing prices without alienating the individuals who buy their products, but a host of other factors are increasingly demanding their attention. The result: there are more things businesses can do to lose the coveted trust of the consumer.

As younger generations become an even bigger source of revenue, CPGs have taken notice. It’s a big reason why they are promoting their sustainability efforts when it comes to improving packaging, curtailing water use or sourcing more sustainable ingredients. Companies also are more engaged online than ever before with social media savvy teens and young adults. If these companies don’t devote time and attention to these areas, the consumer could gravitate to other brands that will.

The survey found the most trusted brands among adults not only dominate the category, but many of them have been around for several decades. General Mills’ Cheerios topped the list; followed by Mars Wrigley’s M&Ms; Ritz, made by Mondelēz International; Campbell’s; and Heinz.

Cheerios stood out thanks to its long history, health focus, stewardship and ability to develop long-lasting relationships with customers starting at a young age. Babies are often fed the cereal by their parents while baby boomers turn to it for its heart health benefits, including its ability to lower cholesterol. 

Great Value, Walmart’s private label brand, is the No. 11 most trusted food and beverage brand among millennials. As cash-strapped consumers deal with price increases on grocery store shelves, more of them are turning to private label offerings as a way to save money.

This may be especially prominent among millennials who consistently report relatively low financial well-being, Morning Consult said. With food costs up 10.1% during the last year, according to the U.S. government, the pressure is on big-name brands to give consumers a reason to pay up rather than moving their dollars to a CPG competitor or store brand.