As we’ve witnessed throughout 2011, the U.S. public continues to ask more questions about where their food comes from. The need for authentic transparency in response to this consumer interest will not disappear anytime soon, and that’s why we’ve seen several food system companies launch advertising campaigns to address these issues.

Communicating Transparency in Agriculture through Advertising

Where does my food come from?Advertising is one of the many ways to present a story. And if there’s one thing to say about agriculture, it’s that there’s passion behind telling its story. The underlying theory is that the more consumers are informed about the who, what, when, where, and how of their food, the better equipped they will be to make purchasing decisions appropriate to their own needs. And those in the food system have begun to utilize this theory as a part of the integrated approach to share agriculture’s “Farm to Fork” story with consumers.

Since 2009, Lays has been promoting its potato chips by featuring the farmers who grow potatoes used to make the chips. Dominos and Stouffer’s featured their locally produced ingredients in 2010. And most recently, (January 2nd, 2012) McDonald’s launched a campaign featuring four of its U.S. beef and produce suppliers—once again associating a real person with the food consumers have access to.

Whether these ads help put a spotlight on the quality behind the food they serve or demonstrate the appreciation the company has for the producer’s contributions, the bottom line is that these are real people growing real food … authentic transparency at its finest!

Where does my food come form?When agriculture and the rest of the food system stay silent, the consumer will decide what food to buy based on what information they can find. This information often comes from organizations that do not support U.S. agriculture. This is one of the main reasons why several companies in agribusiness and the food system are shifting communications strategies and business practices to be more transparent, which is why we expect this trend of farmer-focused campaigns to expand in 2012 and in years to come.

What Does This Trend Mean for Agribusiness?

To put it simply, more emphasis will be placed on transparency in the food system. No matter what product your company (or client) sells or service it provides, consumer-driven agriculture will be at the center of advancement for agricultural systems, and companies must adapt to and address societal needs and concerns. The demand for transparency and traceability in agribusiness will ultimately be realized through technology over time. Whether that is through barcodes and RFIDs, apps, websites or social media, online and mobile services will be working together to make food easier to track—not just for food safety, but to address consumers’ desire to know more about the food they’re eating. From storytelling through advertising to providing tracking in apps, we’re in a food system; therefore, everyone in agribusiness will be affected by transparency in some shape or form.