Building consumer trust and confidence are keys to maintaining and growing pork sales. The strategies that the pork industry has adopted such as Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the We Care initiative are consistent with building consumer trust.

“Three primary elements have been identified as key components in driving consumer trust,” says Charlie Arnot, president, CMA Consulting, Kansas City, Mo. Arnot addressed a group of pork producers at the Pork Industry Forum in Kansas City Thursday.

The first is “influential others” which includes family and friends as well as credentialed individuals. The second is competence, which Arnot defines as technical capacity or science. “The third is confidence, which is about shared values and ethics,” says Arnot.

The confidence factor is four to five times more important in driving consumer trust as the other factors. “Building consumer trust is all about confidence and shared values,” according to Arnot.

As consumer values evolve, the pork industry also needs to evolve in order to maintain consumer trust. “Communication with consumers is necessary to maintain a constructive and positive process,” adds Arnot. “Progress must be consistent across the entire industry regardless of the size or style of production.”

Standardized requirements and guidelines must be observed by all industry participants. Animal welfare programs, for example, must consistently meet evolving customer values in order to maintain consumer trust. “There needs to be a focus on continuous improvement to assure that the supply chain meets consumer expectations with minimal disruption.”

In maintaining consumer values, Arnot points to a consumer question many pork producers face: “Do you house sows in gestation stalls?”

Arnot suggests pork producers answer with a value-based message such as, “I’m glad you asked that question and I can tell you care about animals. As a pork producer, I have committed my career to making sure animals in my care receive individual attention every single day. That’s why we chose to house our sows in individual housing units to monitor their care every day of their pregnancy. That’s why we do what we do.”

Customers want a consistent supply of safe, nutritious and affordable food. Pork producers share these values. The pork industry is highly-regarded in these areas but constant attention to consumer values and building consumer trust is necessary to ensure consumer demand remains robust.