What Can We Learn from the Food Industry?

March 2017

Our world has become increasingly focused on educating consumers in so many different industries. Take food for example – ingredients and nutritional information are now not only accessible, but highly sought out by the consumer. Beyond nutritional information, consumers even have access to the source of a particular food they are shopping for. Labels like free-range, cage-free, and organic help consumers choose food items from sources they believe in and trust. Why is the nutritional content and source of food so important to consumers? Because food fuels our bodies – what we eat directly corresponds to our health, wellness, and capabilities.

The lack of consumer education on fuel is astounding considering fuel’s importance in the average consumer’s life. What you put into your vehicle directly corresponds to your vehicle’s condition, efficiency, and performance and, in part, dictates the vehicle that you drive. Whether it is to commute to a job, pick up children from school, or even go to the grocery store, personal vehicles are vital to the consumer’s convenience and flow of everyday life. Not only that, but personal vehicles are extremely expensive, both to purchase and to maintain. In order to care for their vehicles, consumers must fuel them properly. Even more so, consumers should be taking fuel dynamics into account when investing in a vehicle in the first place.

To the contrary, consumers have no clue about the content or source of fuel that is available and how a given fuel affects the power and sustainability of their vehicles. The worst part is that even if consumers wanted to know, there is very little information readily available to educate them. Take, for example, typical octane ratings on fuel pumps – most consumers have no idea what 87, 89, or 91 mean except for the fact that they correlate to different prices for some mysterious reason.

There is not stakeholder in the mobility industry that wants to invest in creating and marketing a new product without confidence that it will be accepted by consumers. Consumers will be reluctant to accept a new product, however, if they don’t understand the value of it. This is particularly true where the new advancement or product is more expensive than what the consumer is used to purchasing. To understand value, a consumer needs to know how a particular fuel works to power a particular vehicle and the difference between all of the options available.

Bringing the conversation back to the food industry, a customer is not going to spend more money on an item listed as “organic” if they don’t know the benefits associated with eating a specific organic food versus its non-organic counterpart. Consumers who are educated, however, will choose to spend up to 100% more on organic food items if they value the benefit of eating that way. It is the same thing with vehicles and fuel. A consumer may choose to spend more on a particular vehicle or fuel blend if they understand the value behind that choice; as it stands, however, consumers hesitate to deviate from what they are used to because they don’t have any incentive to do so.

Education drives demand. Demand drives supply, which drives choices. Consumers take advantage of choices only when they are educated about them, and so the cycle begins again. What other product do consumers use so regularly and rely on so heavily without so much as a basic understanding of what the product is and how it works, other than fuel? We need to begin thinking about how to educate our consumers because the lifecycle and future of vehicle and fuel production begins and ends with them.

Read more from the March Issue of our Fuel for Thought newsletter.