Consumer demand for food is an important element in the formulation of various agricultural and food policies. Households influence the types of crops that American farmers grow, the prices that farmers receive, and the way in which various crops are transformed into food products. Consumers have a significant influence on the direction of the food and agriculture system. Through their purchases, they express their preferences and values and help shape the decisions that producers and retailers make.
Food and packaging waste are the main contributors to the environmental footprint of the food industry. Consumers have become more active in their support to minimize food waste and to take advantage of biodegradable or minimal packaging options. While many consumers eat “root to stem” and “nose to tail” at their tables, they also want to support companies with the same values. Around a third of the food produced in the world is wasted, reaching epidemic levels.
Manufacturers are finding new ways to rework a product that doesn't meet specifications instead of simply discarding it. For example, broken rice grains that are not suitable for sale as they are can be ground to create rice flour. Retailers and restaurateurs are central hubs of influence for sustainable consumption, connecting their suppliers with consumers. They have an important role to play in using their purchasing power to select and influence their suppliers, as well as in promoting certain food products to the end consumer.
The researchers found that retailer interventions are feasible and have a high potential impact on reducing GHG emissions. The food industry plays an essential role in solving these food control problems because of its strong interest in food safety and marketing. In addition, consumers contribute to food safety by handling food after purchase and need to be informed about appropriate procedures. Today's food consumers are concerned about issues such as animal welfare, labor standards, sustainable and ethical production practices, organic or non-genetically modified production systems, and local food purchasing.
Consumers say that the proliferation of information and opinions about food makes it difficult for them to separate fact from fiction and identify which foods are best suited to their nutritional needs and social values. Consumers are also concerned about the safety of the food they eat, especially domestic rice and other food crops that may have been grown on contaminated agricultural soils. Johr said that younger food consumers, in particular, demand more information about their food and are more likely than their older peers to pay a premium for food that is produced in a way that fits their value systems. In addition, because of its extensive scientific and technical resources and its experience in these issues, the food industry can make important contributions to their understanding and resolution.
Finally, for the same reasons, the communication capabilities of the food industry can help the public to understand the complex nature of the many problems that arise. To provide safe products, managing the food industry requires an organized way of defining and controlling the relationships between critical factors throughout the food supply system, including the conception, manufacture and distribution of products and customer satisfaction. The number of people actively involved in food production continues to decline, but consumer interest in the content and origin of their food is increasingly driving their purchases. Because of their necessarily close participation with the scientific, technological, logistical and management disciplines necessary for the food supply system to work, food manufacturers must be involved in the process of setting standards both nationally and internationally.
Some of these factors, such as value, are the exclusive competence of industry and consumers, while others, such as security, are shared interests of government, industry and consumers. Every year, individual companies and industry associations voluntarily undertake many initiatives to provide the public with useful information on food safety and nutrition. The food industry must cope with the growth of the world population, which will require an increase in production, as well as an expanding middle class that demands healthy, fast and practical food. Consumers and industry should have the opportunity to raise questions and comments about the appropriateness of food control standards.