Transparency is materializing for consumers on two different levels, according to Kristi Weaver, partner, McKinsey & Company, Chicago, who was a featured speaker at the TransparencyIQ conference held Oct. 18, 2017, in Rosemont, Illinois. This first-of-its kind event in the US, focused on the impact of transparency and best practices in the food and beverage industries.

“There’s mandated transparency, which regulatory agencies act as advocates for the consumer and set up rules around,” she said. This includes labeling laws, such as the Nutrition Facts and nutrient content claims; dietary restrictions, such as a ban on trans-fatty acids; sourcing claims, such as organic; and manufacturing claims, such as no hormones in poultry.

“There’s also voluntary transparency, where companies advertise product attributes that cater to their target consumer,” said Weaver. “These attributes address one or more dimensions of a product, including ingredients, manufacturing, process, and more. Voluntary transparency can be a source of competitive advantage.”

In the case of chicken (see infographic), hormone-free is required. “The category has tipped towards antibiotic-free,” she said. “Vegetarian-fed and cage-free are a competitive advantage.”

Companies that are in the process of making voluntary claims are wise to communicate their goals.