Nearly 93% of all consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand when it commits to full transparency, according to a 2017 "Label Insights" study from the Food Marketing Institute. The survey also revealed that 74% of consumers would switch from the brands they usually buy to ones that provide more in-depth product information beyond the physical packaging.
In Europe, the fresh meat industry has been moving toward this goal for 20 years. In the U.S., Performance Food Group Co. (PFG) has been working with European technology innovator IdentiGEN for 10 years to align supply chains and has built the first complete DNA Trace Back System to the farm. PFG said it has connected the information loop to provide greater accountability, improve sustainability, ensure quality and prevent fraud.
“Working with our partners at IdentiGEN and throughout the supply chain has allowed us to build the largest beef program in the U.S. that can link the steak on a plate to the specific animal and source,” PFG vice president of protein Steve Sands said. “When we first began implementing this technology, we were focused on where the animal came from and specific traits to ensure optimal eating quality. Now, we are using the data to provide feedback to our ranchers and other stakeholders to improve animal welfare and efficiencies.”
Braveheart Black Angus Beef, a Midwest-raised premium beef that is traceable back to its origins with DNA technology, has been added to the menus of 18,000 U.S. restaurants in 900 cities since its debut. Braveheart Black Angus Beef is the fastest-growing brand for PFG, also known as PERFORMANCE Foodservice, one of the leading foodservice distributors in the U.S.
PFG has more than doubled its protein sales over the past decade, with the fastest-growing part of its protein program in fresh meat produced under its proprietary PathProven program.
PathProven is PFG’s assurance that the product is traceable, auditable and meets a specific set of farming and processing standards established and controlled by PFG. It is focused on quality at every stage of production by optimizing feeding, animal health, humane treatment, environmental impact and the processing of the animal. Using DNA Trace Back System technology, PFG can verify the origin and handling throughout the supply chain to ensure consistent premium-quality protein.
"As major retail and foodservice operators demand greater traceability and assurance from their suppliers, PathProven is ahead of the industry in delivering a live audit system, bringing accountability to the audit process. PFG is in the process of instituting PathProven supply chains across the protein spectrum,” PFG noted.
In its own research, PFG has also seen this growing consumer interest in transparency. While 75% of consumers surveyed by PFG said traceability is at least somewhat important, 45% said it is very important. Meat was one of the key categories. Nearly twice as many consumers said information on traceability is more important than the brand or retailer. Animal welfare, particularly with beef, was also notable, with 76% of respondents claiming that they would be at least somewhat more likely to buy it if they knew about the source animal's living conditions.
“With the PathProven system and PFG sharing information back with the farm, we are moving toward a more accessible information system for all consumers to know what they are buying,” Sands said.
PFG is a customer-centric foodservice distribution leader headquartered in Richmond, Va. Today, PFG has a nationwide network of approximately 75 distribution centers, 15,000-plus associates and more than 5,000 suppliers across the country.