Pilgrim’s Trust Event organized with partners in late April brought together a large audience of domestic food export professionals and influencers. The aim of the online event was to look at the importance of trust in the food chain, exports and the success of international trade. The event featured trust as part of the success stories of domestic food exports and highlighted Ireland’s exceptionally prosperous food export story. According to experts, the cornerstones of a successful food export are building and maintaining trust especially by taking care of social relations with trading partners, regular interaction with other companies and cross-sectional operators, and marketing and communication.

In food we trust – or, do we?

For twenty years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has studied the state of trust in government, NGOs, companies and the media in various countries. According to the 2021 Trust Barometer, trust in the food sector has suffered slightly during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the event, Pilgrim’s managing director Olli Ollila reviewed the results of Trust Barometer 2021 Food & Beverage report. According to Ollila, values, inclusiveness and targeted product innovations are key in building trust for food products.

– In the aftermath of the pandemic, trust in the food industry can be built through increasingly transparent product information, responsible communication, targeted or socially relevant product innovations, active interaction with other players in the industry, and internal company transparency and staff involvement. Inclusion or “tribalization” through values is also important to consider in food trust. It may no longer be  important that the product is domestic, but it is more important for it to be in line with one’s own values, Ollila says.

Trust in food exports is earned through social interaction

According to Professor, Academy Researcher Tanja Leppäaho, the starting point in Finland is trust, which is lost if one turns out to be unreliable. Elsewhere in the world, the starting point is mistrust, and trust is earned through social interaction.

– In Finland, sociality is not particularly related to business relationships, while in other parts of the world, relationships between people are the core of all business i.e. there are no strictly just professional relationships. In international business, the functioning of relationships is based on friendship: visiting each other’s homes and discussing things outside work. Often, Finnish companies start investing in social relations too late – once the product is 100 % ready a competitor might already have established working business relations through pre-established social relationships. To succeed in international trade, invest in trust through social relationships early on, Leppäaho says.

Irish food export organizer Bord Bia invests in cross-sectoral cooperation

Bord Bia, an organization behind the success story of Irish food exports, was set up in 1994 to raise awareness of Irish food abroad. Bord Bia researches trends and provides export services. It has built its own country brand, Origin Green, to support the country’s food exports and, in particular, the marketing of sustainable development values. In Ireland, a population of 4.5 million, most of the € 13 billion in food exports go to the UK and the EU.

– Exportation is carried out in close co-operation with a number of organizations, ministries and interest groups. Every three years, the strategy is refined, and the usual time span of the strategy is ten years. The Origin Green brand represents 53,000 farms and 320 food companies. They are defined by certain responsibility targets, which they must adhere to. Customer companies that use Irish products are strict about responsibility in food production. And so it should be: this way we continue to build trust and ensure that customers, e.g. McDonald’s and Tesco, are reaching their own sustainability targets, the Bord Bia Marketing Finance Minister Declan Coppinger says.

Pilgrim’s Trust Morning Event

Pilgrim’s Trust Morning is a yearly event Pilgrim organizes for its stakeholders to view the role of trust in business and leadership. This year, Pilgrim produced the event in collaboration with three partners: The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, The Federation of Finnish Entrepreneurs and The Federation of Family Owned Businesses.

The perspective of the event is positive and constructive; it focuses on building trust by offering solutions and encouragement in the light of concrete examples and global research data. The concept of the event was originally created by Pilgrim’s partner, business director and trust communications expert Nina Alivirta.

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