Baked goods manufacturers have long known that their products tell a story—and the trends show that consumers are increasingly interested in knowing this story themselves. This is partially due to the fact that more and more consumers are wary of food brands, which Mintel’s “Global Food & Drink Trends 2018” states has “increased the need for food and drink manufacturers to be forthcoming about their ingredients, production processes, and supply chains.”
That translates to growing pressure on baked goods manufacturers to proactively offer transparency about exactly what their products include—and don’t.
The clearest way to demonstrate transparency is a complete, easy-to-read, jargon-free ingredient list, followed by in-depth nutritional information that fully complies with FDA regulations regarding product labels, according to a Food Marketing Institute and Label Insight report.
However, this is just step one. Bakeries can also share details around ingredient sourcing, product manufacturing and shipping processes, as well as the company’s sustainability and labor policies. Effectively communicating this information requires a strong understanding of the supply chain and the right approach to marketing.
By digging into the practices ingredients are subject to throughout growth or development, bakery manufacturers can genuinely tell the complete story of their products, manage risks appropriately and ultimately increase brand trust.
A good place to start is ensuring compliance with regulations like the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), both of which have set standards for the traceability of food ingredients.
Beyond demonstrating how they’re ensuring food safety, baked goods manufacturers can work with suppliers to set standards and goals for sustainability, authenticity and ethical labor practices. They should also take steps to communicate those standards—and hold the suppliers accountable for staying compliant over time.
“Supply chains are complex and have many moving pieces. Your suppliers also have suppliers,” says Stephen Dombroski, senior manager for the consumer products and food & beverage vertical markets at QAD, which offers cloud-based supply chain management software.
“[Managing the supply chain] starts with real-time communication across and between supply chains by sharing critical information and extracting key inventory and related data from applications and making it visible to suppliers. Real time provides more up-to-date information and is more reliable and easier to use than methods that depend on paper or emails,” he says.
The combination of systems and processes needed to reliably obtain real-time information is most easily achieved through integrated supply chain management software. Baked goods manufacturers can track specific products from point of origin with the help of software features such as big data analytics, track and trace, and intelligent supply chain mapping.
Even manufacturers that aren’t ready to invest significantly in software can work closely with their suppliers to improve product transparency.
“Knowing how suppliers operate, what issues they face in delivering raw materials, and having insight into their operations gives manufacturers essential data that can be used to ensure they can deliver on time to their customers,” Dombroski says.
With this information at the ready, manufacturers can effectively communicate with customers and prospects and market their products accordingly.
While manufacturers prioritize transparent labels and packaging, they should also market their transparency in brand emails, social sites and other marketing platforms.
On the bakery manufacturer’s website, prominently placing information around sustainability, ethical and labor practices can answer questions and demonstrate that these issues are top of mind for the company. And manufacturers can easily include their website address on products, teasing to where consumers can find further information.
Bakery manufacturers can also commit to creating occasional social media posts dedicated to transparency. Making these posts fun and inspirational, perhaps celebrating the farmers that raise the plants that provide the bakery’s cacao or pulling back the curtain on a key step of product development, can help engage customers through storytelling.
Manufacturers may also consider participating in programs like SmartLabel, which lets consumers use their smartphones to scan a barcode on a package and receive information about the product.
This openness can result in a big payoff: 89 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for packaged foods with transparency, according to a Response Media report. And when leveraged correctly, transparency can be an effective way to differentiate products and optimize prices and margins.
Developing a transparency program requires time, resources and care. But doing so can reap substantial rewards, as bakery manufacturers develop more trust among consumers and customers, and stand out from the competition.