Friday, June 14, 2024

How can retailers build trust among health-conscious customers?

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Indian consumers increasingly prioritize health and quality food, with 62% concerned about physical health and 80% emphasizing high-quality choices. Safety concerns due to toxic heavy metals in fruits and vegetables highlight the need for grocery retailers to adopt a seed-to-plate approach, ensuring safety standards, and enhancing trust and competitiveness.

Customer preferences in India have changed over the last three years. Indians remain vigilant about their health even as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and it’s a unifying trend in the country — 62% of Indians want to do more to take care of their physical health and 80% of Indian customers say choosing high-quality foods is the first step.

The most notable change observed in the market is customers shifting away from low-value staples and opting for high-value produce like fruits and vegetables. Even as Indian customers move towards a healthy lifestyle, are they choosing produce that is safe for consumption? This question arises as studies increasingly found the presence of toxic heavy metals in fruits and vegetables.

Vegetables and fruits are the most common source of heavy metal exposure in India, accounting for 90% of metal intake. While such produce is necessary for a healthy lifestyle, the presence of toxic heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead can lead to potential health issues when consumed over time.

As pressing as this concern seems, it’s nearly impossible for customers to know how safe it is to consume produce from their neighbourhood stores and supermarkets as retailers themselves can’t pinpoint where the fruits and vegetables come from and the methods of cultivation used.

Being able to meet safety standards is the first step to securing customer trust. When your customers know the produce they buy from you are safe to consume, they will come back for more.

Building trust and transparency

The journey from farm to plate has become so convoluted, with countless middlemen along the way. Now a radical shift has begun and what customers crave the most is information, as a growing number are questioning the status quo and the origin of their food.

The biggest challenge grocery retailers face in meeting this demand is the lack of visibility of the supply chain from end-to-end. While the crops are cultivated in one part of the state, they move through different middlemen by the time it reaches the retail outlet. Such a convoluted and distributed supply chain also means that customers don’t have the visibility into how the produce was cultivated and whether it is safe to consume. 

If customers lose confidence in you, they will turn to competitors. Building trust requires greater transparency in communications with customers. It helps when grocery retailers can educate customers about where their food comes from, so they can make informed choices on foods they buy.

To achieve a competitive edge and meet the demands of the increasingly health-conscious customer, grocery retailers in India need to obtain greater visibility into the supply chain and know whether the produce they shelve meet health and safety standards.

A sure-shot way of doing this is adopting a ‘seed-to-plate’ concept with full backward integration into the supply chain. This ensures that retailers know what methods of cultivation were used in growing crops, and can guarantee that products aren’t contaminated. It’s also important for retailers to conduct quarterly tests on fresh produce to ensure they meet the FAO and FSSAI standards. Getting the fruits and vegetables certified by a third-party NABL laboratory will also help retailers gain credibility and build trust among customers.

When grocery retailers start holding themselves accountable, it is more likely to trickle down the supply chain too. Such interoperability of systems and mandating compatibility to standards help supply chain partners increase the quality of produce on the shelves.

With changing consumption patterns, ensuring customers that the fruits and vegetables they buy is ‘safe to consume’ can be a competitive advantage for retailers. It will also help build trust in the brand and increase loyalty. The future of grocery retail lies in enhancing the customer experience of a healthy lifestyle. Retailers who fail to pivot, risk being left behind.

The writer is the Head of Brand Marketing for Simpli Namdhari’s- India’s only 100% veg retail chain. She is a strategic marketing leader with more than a decade of experience in marketing across premium retail, consulting and hospitality sectors.

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