In response to consumer demand for improved transparency and trustworthiness in product sourcing and production practice claims, NSF International introduced a new program—“Consumer Values Verified."
According to an April 2014 study by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, environmental, safety and social concerns are crucial determinants to most U.S. consumers. More than ever, consumers are aware of misleading food labeling practices, and they want greater standardization and transparency of food labeling, the study revealed.
Increasingly, consumers are relying on certifications from organizations they trust to guide them when making purchasing decisions. For manufacturers, having a third-party certification on a product can boost consumer confidence, as noted by Amanda Hartt, manager of policy, partner and public relations at SPINS, in her INSIDER article, “What is a Third-Party Certification?"
“Due to consumer awareness of various diet trends, such as paleo, vegan, and halal, whose criteria might not be as highly politicized, the use of third-party certifications is important in building consumer confidence," Hartt wrote.
However, third-party certification programs can be challenging for companies to navigate.
NSF’s new program is designed to guide food manufacturers, marketers and retailers as they navigate the path to certification, and to bring increased credibility to manufacturers’ labeling claims. The program will officially launch at the Food Marketing Institute’s FMI Connect 2015 in Chicago, June 8-11.
Consumer Values Verified substantiates claims in five core values areas important to today’s consumers: lifestyle, dietary, religious, sourcing and chemicals of concern. Current third-party verifications include: Non-GMO Project Verified (lifestyle values); NSF International Certified Gluten-Free (dietary values); True Source Honey (sourcing values); and Kosher (religious values). NSF International has plans to announce additional labeling claim verifications later this year.
Essentially, the program can harmonize multiple verifications and inspections into one fluid process, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing costs for companies trying to achieve certifications that appeal to health- and environmentally-conscious consumers.
“We know today’s food manufacturers often feel challenged to keep up with consumer demands and trends with a sea of ever-changing regulations and consumer concerns," said Jaclyn Bowen, director of NSF International’s Consumer Values Verified Program. “We provide peace of mind to manufacturers who seek to verify their packaging claims with a trusted authority."