12.5.17 Consumer Awareness

How NSF International Helps Brands Build Consumer Trust by Ensuring Product Safety Through Testing and Certification

By: Jessica Sommerfield

The Crunch: Studies show that consumers consider a brand’s transparency about product safety and quality a priority in their purchasing decisions. Brands whose products carry a credible certification label build consumer trust, and NSF International’s blue mark is one of the most recognizable. NSF is a global, third-party organization that sets and maintains consensus-based public health and safety standards for products and materials across many key industries. The organization also offers businesses voluntary certifications to help them foster transparency and improve brand loyalty.

Consumers expect brands and manufacturers to be a good source of product data, but Label Insights reports that nearly half aren’t satisfied with the information available on product labels. Consequently, only 12% of consumers consider brands their primary source for product information — the rest mainly rely on the internet to answer their questions.

Failing to be forthcoming with information can affect the brand-consumer relationship. But those who take steps to improve their transparency are more likely to build trust, loyalty, and even attract new customers. Survey respondents agreed, indicating they were likely to convert to another brand or pay more for a product that delivers on transparency.

Jessica Evans, NSF Director of Standards, spoke with us about how the organization helps brands build trust and show transparency.

One way brands can accomplish this is by including trusted certifications on product labeling. NSF, an independent public health and safety organization, is among those credible sources. Across the globe, consumers can find the blue NSF symbol that signals products, including bottled water, supplements, and other home goods, have passed rigorous certification standards.

“You’ll find the NSF certification mark on bottled water in Asia, dietary supplements in Europe, food prep equipment in Latin America, and plumbing products in Africa, just to name a few,” said Jessica Evans, NSF Director of Standards.

Since 1944, NSF International has worked with regulatory agencies, academics, and industry leaders to develop product quality standards in many fields. NSF demonstrates its commitment to consumer safety by setting high standards, performing testing services, and providing both mandatory and optional certifications.

Brands that partner with NSF are well on their way to building the transparency and trust their customers are looking for.

A Global Leader in Setting and Testing Consumer Safety Standards

NSF has a long history of setting consumer safety benchmarks around the world and is accredited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

NSF, which initially stood for National Sanitation Foundation, focused on setting sanitation standards for food and beverage equipment in the US when it was formed in 1944. After moving into global markets, the organization was renamed NSF International. It also expanded its focus from food and water sanitation to ensuring quality standards for materials and products in industries such as aerospace, automotive, biotech, pharmaceutical, dietary supplements, and consumer goods

One integral component of NSF’s process is the way it develops certification standards. “NSF uses a consensus-based process, which means that regulators, consumers, academia and industry are all involved in developing the standards to ensure they protect public health,” Jessica said.

NSF certifies a wide range of consumer products for safety, including bottled water and nutritional supplements.

After the group develops a standard, it’s reviewed and approved by regulatory, academic, and public sector representatives known as the Council of Public Health Consultants. Using this impartial, collective process, NSF has developed 90 national standards, 70 of which are currently active.

NSF standards are so trusted that many appear in mandatory regulations and codes at the national, state, and local level. “NSF/ANSI commercial foodservice equipment certification is required by most public health inspectors,” Jessica said. “These benchmark certifications were some of the first standards developed by NSF International back in the 1940s.”

In addition to playing a key role in setting public safety standards, NSF is also a leader in testing services that ensure products and materials across many industries meet its certification criteria.

Working with Brands to Provide Ongoing Product Certification

Brands seeking to build consumer trust also pursue NSF’s voluntary certifications. Manufacturers can opt-in to NSF testing and certifications for water filters, automotive replacement parts, bottled water, supplements, and consumer household goods such as sustainable textiles.

“NSF International’s home product certification is based on peer-reviewed, scientifically-tested, transparent protocols that ensure product quality, performance, and safety,” Jessica explained.

For a brand that sells food and dietary supplements, certification may include screening for contaminants or banned substances. Products submitted for NSF’s Certified for Sport certification would also be screened for certain performance enhancers.

Regardless of the product, the certification process is rigorous, and consistent. “It starts with the submission of an application; then the product is submitted, evaluated, and tested while the manufacturing facility is audited. If all of these steps are completed, certification is granted,” Jessica said.

And certification is not a one-time event, Jessica said. “Manufacturing facilities are audited, and products are tested and retested to ensure they meet the high standards required to maintain certification,” she explained.

The certification symbol brands can display on their labels depends on the product and the certification it successfully passed. For consumer goods, this is usually the blue NSF mark.

“The NSF mark can appear in a variety of areas on the product, in the product literature, on the label, or on the website,” Jessica said. “You can also find out if a product you’re interested in is certified by checking the listing of all NSF certified products.”

The NSF mark on a product assures consumers a trusted third party has independently verified the product’s quality and safety. Manufacturers and retail brands that achieve NSF certification demonstrate their commitment to transparency, customer health, and safety.

Maintaining Standards Through Education with an Eye on Innovation

NSF sets and upholds standards for safety, and brands that work with the organization can build the trust and ensure the transparency that customers want. But NSF approaches certifications more like a partner than a regulator, starting with the participatory process that brings regulators, academia, industry, and consumers to the table to develop and approve consumer safety standards. NSF also fosters collaboration through numerous educational resources.

Businesses can access training platforms on the NSF site to educate every level of employee about how to uphold certification standards, pass inspections, and implement effective quality assurance processes. NSF believes businesses that stay informed about product safety protocols and changes within their industries will see a positive impact on company culture, brand image, and ROI.

“NSF International uses continuous maintenance for its standards. Requirements are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure the standard meets any critical change in the industry.” — Jessica Evans, NSF Director of Standards

Businesses and brands need to stay aware of critical changes that affect their products and the consumers who purchase them, so NSF stays current on innovations in many industries.

“NSF International uses continuous maintenance for its standards,” Jessica said. “Requirements are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure the standard meets any critical change in the industry.”

This openness to review also means brands aren’t held back from updating and improving their products as new information, technology, or ingredients enter the market. “Having the ability to bring revisions or new product technology to the consensus body for consideration at any time helps foster product innovation, while still ensuring they meet the requirements of the standard,” Jessica said.

NSF helps brands demonstrate the transparency consumers seek by providing consensus-derived certifications that champion safety and hold products to high quality standards. And brands can show their dedication to consumer safety by displaying the well-known NSF logo on their product pages and labeling.

About The Author

Jessica Sommerfield is a contributing writer for DealCrunch with over seven years of experience with online publications in the personal finance sector and other consumer-focused niches. Her 13 years of experience in brick-and-mortar stores prior to her writing career have also given her an insider’s perspective on the unique challenges that the retail industry faces.

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