RSS

How many labels can we put on food?

24

Posted by James Wheatley
0 Comments

Tesco are to start printing the carbon footprint of their milk on the label, calling it an awareness raising measure. Since carbon footprint has traditionally been one of the least well-understood responsible issues among consumers, it’s tempting to uncritically accept ideas like this as a good thing.


On the other hand, perhaps we should consider how consumers actually react to responsible cues on food labels. Our research indicates that even consumers who are responsibly motivated fail to act responsibly when they make food purchases. Consumers are already confronted with an array of responsible cues on food labels; organic, Marine Stewardship, Fairtrade, Freedom Food, recycled packaging, and so on, and so on. In most cases, these responsible cues do not form a conscious part of purchase deliberation. We know this, because our research specifically compared what people say they do with what they actually do.


An important reason for the gap between sentiment and action is the confusion caused by the number of responsible cues that exist. There’s too much choice, and not enough clarity about what any of them mean. Yet another symbol is unlikely to improve matters. It may help build awareness of the issue among the responsibly-motivated consumers who are pre-disposed to listen to such messages, but our experience to date suggests that it will only prompt conscious action among a tiny minority of them.


And even if all consumers were engaged with all the ‘single-issue’ labelling schemes - such as Tesco’s carbon footprint label - how are they supposed to choose between them? Is it more important to buy a product with a low carbon footprint than one that says Freedom Food? Does Fairtrade trump organic? Does a truly responsible product have all of them? If it did, would there be room for anything else on the label?


It may be time to retreat from single-issue labelling schemes, and think instead about how we could offer consumers an overall responsibility score that allows them to directly compare products. Although it does not yet offer product-level comparison, Wal-Mart’s progress towards its ‘Sustainability Index’ shows that the world’s biggest retailer is taking the idea seriously. The flower-shaped ‘multi-criteria sustainability label’ proposed by Sustain is another example of an integrated label, which could offer product-level comparisons. Such approaches may have problems of their own, but when it comes to driving consumer behaviour it may stand a better chance of success than a proliferation of responsible labels that consumers can’t directly compare and find difficult to understand.
 

Tags:  responsible labelling sustainability tesco carbon-footprint

Leave a comment

Please keep it polite and on topic. Your email address is required, but won't be displayed (for more details, read our Privacy Policy).

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments

Submit

Pic credit - Bayat

Latest Views

British farmers wilting as supermarkets pile on the promotions...read more

Trust - its only a little word but has US in the middle...read more

Promotional Society...read more

Homo Empatheticus...read more

Ready to Go Grow Your Own Produce...read more

Archived Views

Join us on LinkedIn        LinkedIn

Join us on Facebook      Facebook

Latest News RSS Feed   Facebook

Bookmark and Share

Tag Cloud

Labelling Asda battleground Big Four carbon-footprint Co-op Competitive advantage consumer consumer engagement consumers CSR Ethical Food Shoppers Food Free market Green packaging Green Shoppers labelling Local shopping Low food miles Morrisons Packaging politics Reality Bites responsible Responsible Consumerism Retail Retial Landscape Sainsburys Seasonal produce shopping Stuart Roper supermarkets sustainability Sustainability Index tesco Trust Waste 1 27QJD 5DPVDI Asda Behaviour Birmingham Brands British produce Champion Consumer Consumerism Consumers Consumption eBay Empathy; fish fight; synergy; belonging; responsible consumerism ESOMAR farmers struggle; Generations Government Green Greenwash http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/companies/supermarkets/morrisons/british-flavour-to-morrisons-fresh-produce-overhaul/227963.article?utm_medium=email&utm_so Incentives Lifestyle local-food Morrisons Nectar Obama Packaging Purchasing habits RDR9 Recession Recycling Reith Lectures Responsible responsible; responsibility; Guardian; conservative; government Social Media Strauss and Howe Supermarkets Sustainable Tesco Tesco pricing; National Farmers Union;empathy to farmers Thrift Trust Trust; challenger brands; customers; energy suppliers; Responsible research Values Viral Wal-Mart