Blog: Katy AskewExpo West - "trustability" touted as key competitive factor

Katy Askew | 11 March 2016

Exhibitors are gearing up for this year's Natural Products Expo West, which has grown to become one of the major dates in the US food industry calendar. Boxes are being unpacked in the massive halls and stands are being erected.

The scale of the event is impressive for an exhibition focusing on one part of our sector. But this is not surprising given the massive growth the natural and organic space is currently witnessing around the world.

Expansion is being driven by a number of factors. Consumers are increasingly concerned about health and wellness and they are turning to natural or organic foods as an answer because of one key element: trust. Natural foods are viewed as more trustworthy by a significant proportion of consumers who are sceptical about artificial additives GMOs or other hidden "nasties".

In an increasingly crowded sector, being "trustable" is distinct from being "trustworthy", author and consultant Martha Rogers suggested at this morning's keynote seminar. "Most companies try to be trustworthy," she noted. "Trustability really offers up a competitive differentiator."

Trustability, Rogers continued, is about doing what is right for the customer because ultimately that is what is best for business. "A trustworthy company focuses on quarterly profits as the most important key performance indicator... Whereas a trustable company uses customer analytics to look at profits versus the value of customers."

Rogers also noted in today's connected marketplace relationship building is key to developing trust. "Back in the 1900s... what really mattered was advertising. But now what really matters is customer experience because they are all talking to each other."

I'm not so sure that traditional advertising can entirely be written off yet. Flying into California from the UK, one of the first things I noticed was how advertising is bringing issues of health and wellness into the mainstream dialogue, as well as holding a mirror up to consumer driven trends. In the taxi, on the radio, I noticed three adverts for packaged food products that hailed their natural, healthy or fresh credentials in the mix of ads for cars and insurance. Hearing this, it really struck me how mainstream foods in this sector have become - and how this agenda is likely to be a key influence on the development of the food industry moving forward.

Stay tuned for further news updates and general musings from Expo West over the next week.

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