Almost half (45%) of consumers would change their shopping habits as a result of product recalls or contamination, according to a report.
The report, by product data management firm GS1 UK, found 37% of respondents believed that brands and retailers lacked transparency with customers about occurrences of product recalls.
Food recalls have increased in the UK, spiking by 20% from 2017 to 2019, and brands were four times more likely than supermarkets to feel a negative impact after a recall, the report said.
However, it warned the impact of the recall process could be costly for brands, retailers and suppliers.
“The majority of food contamination issues occur at the supplier level, and problems for a brand’s reputation and consumer trust can often be tracked back to this point,” it added.
The report cited the 2013 horsemeat scandal as a prime example, where products labelled as 100% beef were found to have undeclared horsemeat.
The scandal affected 13 countries in Europe and was highlighted as the “biggest wake-up call for the modern supply chain” that would “call into question supplier relations and the level of transparency involved in the sourcing and processing of products sold by trusted brands and retailers”.
Other significant examples included E.coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, the adulteration of honey and an investigation into the purity of olive oil.
The report added the events of Covid-19 put pressure on the issue for companies as “food product traceability is more important than ever before for consumers”.
It called for retailers and manufacturers to increase traceability of items at every stage of the supply chain in order to bring “greater levels of transparency and assurances on safety”.
Gary Lynch, chief executive of GS1 UK, said: “Our findings confirm that product traceability is increasingly shaping consumer habits, with costly consequences for retailers and product manufacturers who fail to be transparent.”
Having an end-to-end record of a product’s lifespan would allow firms to “build trust with their customers, maintain consumer demand and, ultimately, ensure their survival in what is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated market amidst the Covid-19 pandemic”, Lynch added.