Companies Step Up Efforts to Reveal More Details on Food You Eat – from the Wall Street Journal 

Special codes and websites showcase where ingredients come from.
Updated March 13, 2016 7:55 p.m. ET

Fish + People Inc. has been posting on its website the names and photos of the boat captains that caught fish for its new Fishpeople-brand packaged seafood meals and frozen filets over the past three years. Many shoppers are hooked.

The company put special codes on its packages that, when typed into its website, provide information on how each ingredient is produced, and the people involved. Some Fishpeople product packages, which are sold at 7,500 retail locations nationally, now display photos of the captain and the vessel that caught the fish.

“What (shoppers are) most interested in is place and people,” said Fish + People Chief Executive Duncan Berry.

From niche players such as Fish + People to large enterprises such as Campbell Soup Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., companies are rushing to meet consumers’ increasing demand to know more about what’s in their food, where it came from, and how it was produced. Hershey Co.’s new “smart labels” are putting more nutrition information on packages and eventually could showcase where it buys its ingredients. Kellogg Co. and General Mills Inc. now feature on their websites, names and profiles of farmers who grow wheat and oats for their cereals.

Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club unit recently began putting codes on produce packages that smartphone-wielding shoppers can scan to learn where, how and by whom the food was grown.

Driving the efforts are consumers’ heightened concerns about health and the environmental and social impact of food production, as well as regulatory and safety worries. For large companies, it is a bid to fend off further competitive incursions from upstart brands that are winning shoppers with less-processed, simpler fare. The top 10 branded food-manufacturing companies collectively shed 4.3 percentage points of market share in the past five years, largely to small and midsize rivals, according to Rabobank analyst Nicholas Fereday.

Smaller companies benefit from nimbleness. The Real Co., based in Valley Cottage, N.Y., began selling rice in the U.S. about two years ago, with the name on the package of the Pakistani farm that produced it. The rice, from the Al-Farid farming cooperative in Punjab province, now sells in about 800 grocery stores, including Wegmans Food Markets Inc.

Chief Executive Belal El-Banna has expanded to offer raw cane sugar from a farm in Costa Rica and pink salt from an area in the Himalayas. Real is working on a calorie-free sweetener using ground stevia leaves, rather than extract, from Paraguay.

“With the Internet, so much information is available now. But people still don’t know where their food comes from,” and smaller players such as Real can address that information gap, he said.

Large companies are trying, too. Campbell recently launched the website, whatsinmyfood.com, to cultivate a homegrown image by detailing, for instance, that SpaghettiOs canned pasta is made with tomatoes mainly from California family farms and cheese that is mostly from Wisconsin.

You can read the complete story here at WSJ.com