How the pandemic changed attitudes about food plant safety


While many U.S. food and beverage companies got a sales boost as a direct result of COVID-19, the pandemic also brought increased attention to food plant safety practices and hygiene protocols. Seemingly overnight, Americans became more concerned about the availability, safety, affordability, and quality of their food, and many looked to food processing facilities to understand the steps they were taking to keep the food supply safe while also taking care of their employees and limiting the spread of the virus in their plants.

Going direct to consumers for insights

In May of 2020, we surveyed a representative sample of US food consumers to understand how their attitudes toward food and beverage manufacturers and processors had been affected by current events and related media coverage. Now, more than a year after the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we have repeated the same survey to understand how consumer sentiment has continued to shift — and how food and beverage companies can take proactive steps to build trust and create positive brand associations.

Concerns over food plant hygiene aren’t going away

One major takeaway from our two surveys, conducted nearly a year apart, is that consumer worries about the food supply and hygiene at food plants hasn’t waned. Though most consumers now understand that they don’t need to wipe down their groceries to prevent the spread of COVID, the percentage of survey respondents who said they were either “very confident” or “extremely confident” that the majority of the food in their local grocery store was processed in a hygienic plant has increased only slightly since May of 2020. In fact, 1 in 5 survey respondents said they were “not so confident” or “not at all confident.”

A silver lining in a time of consumer uncertainty

The fact that U.S. food consumers are uncertain about the hygiene at food plants opens the door for proactive communication. In our report, we’ve included suggested topics for direct-to-consumer educational messaging, including:

  • Technology you use, such as sensors and AI, to remove damaged or spoiled foods during sorting
  • How you are implementing smart manufacturing principles like automation, machine learning, and remote monitoring to improve safety and hygiene in your plant
  • Investments you’ve made in hygienic equipment, such as hygienic design enclosures, climate control solutions, and HMI solutions
  • And more

Review the data — and our suggestions for what to do about it — in our latest Consumer Insight Report, How a Global Pandemic Changed Consumer Attitudes About Food Plant Safety.