Farmscape for November 22, 2023
A professor with the University of Guelph says the words we use to describe food can create a negative or a positive image in the minds of consumers.
"What Consumers Know, What They Don't Know and Why it Matters" was discussed earlier this month as part of Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2023.
Dr. Michael von Massow, a professor in the Department of Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Guelph and the Ontario Agricultural College Chair in Food Systems Leadership, says some words, such as battery cages or gestation crates, create a negative image in the minds of consumers while other words are positive.
Quote-Dr. Michael von Massow-University of Guelph:
We did some work where we looked at the word sausage to see if the word pork in front of sausage created more value and in fact it didn't.
The initial response was, "that's not good news" but if we thought about it a little bit, that means when people hear the word sausage, they automatically think pork so the word sausage is a positive thing and we own that as a pork industry.
Whereas, if someone says this is a vegan sausage, all of a sudden it goes down because we're modifying it.
I think that there are some bad words to use and some disadvantages we have and some good words to use like sausage, like burger, like steak, like pork chop that are positive and in the minds of consumers are associated with animal agriculture.
It's pretty clear in some of those cases they're saying you're not fooling us and, in some cases, it's leading to confusion.
An example away from pork is milk.
In Canada we often use the term almond milk or oat milk but you're not allowed to use that from a regulatory perspective and it's clear that, if you use the term milk, the default is we think of that from a dairy cow but it also comes with a certain expectation of nutrition so I think we need to be careful how we think of those things in terms of setting expectations in the consumers’ minds.
Dr. von Massow doesn't believe the threat is high because agriculture owns that space but he suggests we need to be careful in terms of what the consumers' expectations are.
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