Farm Food Facts

Public Trust Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 02, 2020 USFRA Episode 79
Farm Food Facts
Public Trust Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Public Trust Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Jun 02, 2020 Episode 79
USFRA

Matt Coldagelli, Senior Vice-President at Edelman, discusses their Trust Barometer study that measures how trustworthy the public feels towards government, NGOs, business and media. The Spring 2020 update shows that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, government trust surged 11 points to an all-time high of 65 percent, while, even with a four-point increase, there is marked disappointment in how the private sector has performed during the crisis.

 

Show Notes Transcript

Matt Coldagelli, Senior Vice-President at Edelman, discusses their Trust Barometer study that measures how trustworthy the public feels towards government, NGOs, business and media. The Spring 2020 update shows that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, government trust surged 11 points to an all-time high of 65 percent, while, even with a four-point increase, there is marked disappointment in how the private sector has performed during the crisis.

 

Phil:

Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food facts presented by the U S farmers and ranchers Alliance for Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020. I'm your host Phil Lempert. Today as we sit at home working sheltered distancing and wearing masks, we're going to talk how about trust? The Edelman trust barometer 2020 has a spring update and with us is Matt Coldagelli to share their findings and insights. The survey was conducted by Edelman intelligence between April 15th and April 23rd and sampled more than 13,200 respondents in 11 different countries. Matt, welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Matt:

Phil, thanks so much for having me.

Phil:

You know, Matt, your insights on USFRA's leadership series were very welcome news. Um, I was surprised though to read the results of the trust survey. Were you surprised at all?

Matt:

Yeah. And, and to give a little bit of background about the trust barometer, it's usually something we do every year, annually, once a year. And it's, it's something we've been doing for 20 years and over that entire time span, government has never risen to the top as the most trusted entity. We look at four entities, government, media, business and NGOs. And this instance was the first time government has ever emerged as the most trusted entity. And in some ways that makes sense because almost regardless of how well you think maybe your state government is handling it or the federal government is handling it, there's a lot more government in your life right now. You're encountering it on a daily basis. You might be watching your governor on a daily press conference. So it's much more present in people's lives right now.

Phil:

But that's what surprised me. Um, I would think with all the news, with everything that's been bombarded at us, uh, trust would be lower, especially with the fact that we now have over a hundred thousand deaths from covert 19. Um, you know, when, when we pull it out country by country, I see that the U S increased. I think it's six points. Um, you know, were you surprised that it went up versus down in the U S

Matt:

Well, the thing to remember is that it was, it was starting from a place of distrust in, in the U S and in several markets. Yeah. And it was, you know, we, we came to the realization in, in March, um, and even in February, I think late February, having discussions about the findings that we had pulled, you know, at the end of 2019 it seemed like we were looking at a different world and so we needed to get back in and refill that survey. Um, to your point of, you know, on the one hand it is because it's a chaotic time, you know, and, and the rules are being rewritten, but on the other, you know, think of what people are doing and who they're relying on and who they're turning to. You know, food and beverage companies, so saw a significant bump. Um, and, and if you think about it, that, that stands to reason because people are, people are relying on, um, you know, grocery stores to get them their brands.

Matt:

And in one way, shape or form, and they're cooking at home levels, they probably haven't in a long time. So you're getting a much closer involvement with these things that maybe you took for granted for a while. Or you know, if you were, if you were someone who, um, you know, dined out or did a lot of restaurant dining, you, there's a degree of separation there from actually handling the food and giving it yourself and preparing that meal. So it makes sense from that standpoint that people are having to reorganize their lives a little bit and get into much closer contact with a lot of these things. And you know, Edelman does a lot of work in food and beverage. So, you know, I'm sure that, especially when it comes to big food where people have Ben, no something away from for years, um, into smaller emerging companies.

Matt:

And now all of a sudden everybody's going back to the big companies, you know, Kraft, mandolins, ConAgra, you know, all those companies because frankly, they're on the shelf and they have more trust that these companies can deliver. Yeah. I mean we're seeing a phenomenon rise where people are looking for things that they feel are reliable, that give them comfort, um, and that they know they can get. And you know, the, those, those brands and those companies that you named there, they've certainly fit the bill. And you know, we've, we've stripped away a lot of the different attributes that we might be looking for in food under normal circumstances. And now people are just looking for something that they can, they can make sure they can get to their fridge or their pantry and that they can feed their family. And so a lot of it is hinging on just that reliability.

Matt:

So, you know, I noticed looking at Nielsen data that across the globe, uh, people have gone away from earth friendly cleaning products, two more petrochemicals cleaning products. So my question is, um, after this and you know, those emerging quote unquote healthier brands or back on the shelf, do you think that people will go back to, to some of those smaller brands or are they really in for a tough time ahead? It's a great question because I think that we are getting a new lens put on, on a whole host of products. Um, and, and it's, and it's really kind of a reversion to, to something very basic of just, you know, human health. Um, you know, I think of, you know, what you're going to see in the restaurant industry with, you know, not just disposable utensils and containers, but single menus, you know, just when, when, if you go back six months, there was this, this concerted movement, um, to eliminate single use plastics anywhere they emerged. And now, you know, I think people are realizing that, Hey, plastics and things that are disposable, that's an effective barrier between me and the, you know, the world outside my, the door. And so, yeah, I could see some of those, um, you know, measures of value and what people are claiming to look for, um, get reorganized a little bit.

Phil:

So what does that do to the environment and what does it do to the environmental movement that has been growing, um, not only with products but concerned about climate change and, and really raising the awareness of all of this. Do we just step away from that?

Matt:

Well, I'm sure we won't step away from it, but I think that, you know, there, there may be some new considerations around what you should be considering when you, you know, manage a supply chain. Um, you know, I've had conversations with, with people and it's, you know, you think of all every company that you go to that that is relying on an animal product. And you know, if you went to their website you would be able to find a lot of information about their animals welfare policy. You probably wouldn't find that much about the different human elements of the workers and their supply chain and what is being done to take care of them. And that is where the demand is right now. People want to know that you're doing the right thing to keep your workers safe. You know, the trust barometer is, is abundantly clear that people are wanting businesses to put employee safety and welfare first to make sure that, you know, people come before profits and they're expecting CEOs and business leaders to be judicious about when they take steps back towards normalcy. And they're also expecting them to really do everything possible to work in a really seamless partnership with government. Um, you know, and that, that's something that goes both ways I think. I mean, people are looking for government to really be, um, a true partner to business because we're in unprecedented times and you know, I think people look at these, these entities and think like, Hey, let's all pull in the same direction.

Phil:

Yeah. Another surprising thing that you're talking about businesses, only 43% of the respondents believe that companies are protecting their image employees sufficiently from covert 19. I was surprised to see that number so low. I expected that to be a much higher number.

Matt:

Well, it's a challenging, it's, it's a challenge. I mean, this is, this is something that is, you know, for, for almost everybody walking the planet right now, unprecedented in their lifetimes. And you know, I don't think anybody is expecting companies to go out and throw a perfect game on this. Um, but think of the stories that, that are bubbling to the surface, you know, where it is, is clusters that are, um, you know, emerging in places of work, um, whether that is and delivery services or in food production facilities. Um, you know, those are the things that are catching people's attention. And so, you know, it stands to reason that they're going to think that this scenario where there's room for improvement and, you know, on, on one hand, it's, it's understandable that that CEO's have, have not rushed holes sail into the public conversation on this because frankly, they had a lot of other work to be doing.

Matt:

Um, especially if you're an essential business and you had to find out how you're going to stay open, how you're going to, to meet, um, you know, in some cases spiked demand. Um, you know, that that was consuming a lot of people's time and making it so it was challenging to go out and essentially make the public case of here's what we're doing, here's how we're keeping workers safe. But, but that is what the expectation is right now for the first time in our lives. Um, certainly and probably the generation before us and, um, but definitely a part of our grandparents time was the great depression. So for the first time in our life, um, we've never walked into a supermarket and seeing the half of it empty or more than half of the dentists. What kind of impact long, longterm impact will that have on, on the people I'm alive today.

Matt:

It's interesting because you know, when you, when you talk about what we're going through, you mentioned the great depression, you know, that we're going through the largest economic shock since, since the great depression. We've, we've lost as many lives, um, more more than we did in the Vietnam war. And I think in many ways this came on for a lot of the country with, with the, almost the shock that that was analogous to nine 11. Any one of those things was a generation defining events that changed the way people behaved and thoughts and, and, and acted for for decades. And so to roll them all into one, you know, it's, it's really hard to see how, just how deep and how far the ramifications of this are going to go. I mean, I, I would think, you know, as we touched on earlier, there will be a kind of a, uh, a remembering of the things that you could count on when, when times were hard and you know, you, even if we're going to get away from a place where there might be shortages and there might be runs on, on certain products in a grocery store, I think people will have, you know, some positive feelings for the things that help them feed their family.

Matt:

Um, during a time like this. So I would not be surprised to see, you know, some of these shelf stable products that people are maybe reacquainted in themselves with after a long time to enjoy a little bit of a resurgence because, you know, on some level, I think people are remembering a very basic need that, uh, that a food product can fulfill.

Phil:

And also changing behaviors. I mean, I was talking to a reporter, Oh, a couple of weeks ago, and I said, one of the things you're going to see is, is really, you know, a lot of indulgent eating. And she laughed and I said, what are you laughing about? And she said, you know, typically when I buy snacks, um, I go for organic, healthy, uh, low sodium, whatever. And she and her husband are now eating like a, uh, a box of Oreos every day. So, so I think you're right on that. Um, you know, Matt, uh, w what comes to mind is when I was a little kid, uh, walking with my grandmother, um, there was a penny on the sidewalk and this is a very true story. Um, and, um, I said, Oh look, there's a penny. And she bent down and picked it up. And I said, grandma, you know, why are you picking up a penny from the sidewalk? And she looked at me and she said, you know, you haven't lived through the depression. If you ever do, you'll pick up, you know, pennies on the sidewalk again. So I guess we're, we're moving into that era where we're going to be looking for loose change. You know, everywhere

Matt:

I've, I've made that joke with my wife in my home that, you know, I've got, I've got two young kids and they're always going to be, you know, for the rest of their lives. B be telling the people around them or maybe their own kids, you know, you don't really know what it's like. I lived through a pandemic, but, um, and, and I think for sure it's, it's going to be a generation defining moment and you know, it really is going to be an interesting time to see, you know, how deep and how long lasting some of the admin attitudinal changes that we're already seeing taking root. Actually last.

Phil:

Well Matt, thank you for joining us today on Farm Food Facts and all the great work that you and Edelman are doing for us farmers and ranchers Alliance. And uh, you know, this forum is yours. Anytime you can update us on trust and other matters when it comes to our food supply.

Matt:

Thank you so much for having me, Phil.

Phil:

Thanks for listening to today's podcast episode. For more information on all things food and agriculture, please visit us@usfarmersandranchers.org. Also, be sure to look for us on Facebook at U S farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.