Food industry underestimates reputational vulnerability

Companies in the food processing industry are under a magnifying glass. If something is wrong with a product, the media widely measure it as ‘yet another food scandal’. However, many producers are insufficiently aware of this vulnerability. ‘That is a shame as this awareness provides oganizations with opportunities to strengthen their reputation’, said Arjan van Heerde of KTBA, a Mérieux NutriSciences Company, and Maarten Halsema of IVRM Reputation.

KTBA and IVRM work together to strengthen reputations in the food industry. More precisely, in the areas of food safety and quality assurance. Arjan van Heerde, Sales Leader Business Assurance at KTBA, can sum up recent scandals like this: ‘We all remember the salmonella contamination at Ferrero’s KinderSurprise and the head-in-the-sand mentality that showed how damaging late and inadequate communication is to the corporate reputation. Or take the horse meat fraud, the poultry campaigns by Wakker Dier -a Dutch foundation that advocates for animals in the livestock industry-, and the salmon contaminated with Listeria. All situations with a large impact on companies that can even jeopardize its continuity.

Vulnerable reputation
According to Van Heerde, the food industry is eminently vulnerable to scandals because it involves the daily diet of consumers. Not only the quality of a product makes producers vulnerable, there are many more potential issues and crises at play. ‘Think of sustainability promises that don’t match reality, hygiene guidelines that aren’t complied with, incorrect packaging material or incomplete labeling and the presence of substances in raw materials that do not belong in the final product.’

Managing proactively
Exactly that crisis sensitivity makes it important for companies to proactively manage their reputation, says reputation expert Maarten Halsema. ‘A strong reputation is one of an organization’s most important assets and gives your brand or company confidence and preference over competitors. That definitely is something to invest in, not only during a crisis, but also when things are going well.’ According to Halsema, reputations anno 2022 are more manageable than ever before. ‘Countless means and methodologies are available with which you can work on your visibility and reputation as an organization.’

Arjan van Heerde

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Maarten Halsema



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