As the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker revealed, consumers are questioning not only where and how their products are made, but also what's in them. And as consumers learn more about the food they buy, they're also more vocal about what they've found.
This week, Coca-Cola announced it will eliminate brominated vegetable oil (B.V.O.) from all of its drinks by the end of the year. The substance, used in both food and drinks, has long been controversial because of its use of bromine, which has been linked to memory loss and skin and nerve problems. The beverage giant is not the first to make a commitment to removing the food additive. In January 2013, PepsiCo announced it would remove B.V.O. from Gatorade in response to a Change.org petition, which garnered 206,650 supporters. After PepsiCo announced the change, the petition's founder, 17-year-old Sarah Kavanagh, decided to target Powerade, owned by Coca-Cola. The company responded by removing B.V.O not just from Powerade, but its entire line of beverages. Coca-Cola noted that the move was to make more consistency between products, as the use of B.V.O. in food is already banned in the European Union and Japan.
While twenty years ago a consumer petition may not have carried much weight, now with social media and digital platforms like Change.org and others, consumers have the power and collective voice to push issues they care about forward – and they're not afraid to do so. The 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study found 62 percent of global citizens use social media to engage with companies around social or environmental issues, and a quarter are doing so to share negative information about a company's efforts. Companies must not only listen, but react to these growing demands.