SAINSBURY’S is dropping the Red Tractor logo, citing fears consumers are becoming ‘confused’ over the number of logos appearing on food packaging.
The NFU has described the move as ‘extremely disappointing’ for the farming industry, which is keen to promote the logo as widely as possible to communicate the high standards of the British food produced under the scheme.
Sainsbury’s said forthcoming EU changes to food labelling regulations have led it to ‘review and prioritise the information we put on our packaging’.
“Customers have told us that too many logos on pack can be confusing, so whilst we will continue to adhere to, and exceed, the Red Tractor standard, we will no longer be using their logo,” Sainsbury’s said in statement.
The retailer insisted that all its British sourced products meet Red Tractor’s standard and said it would continue to use the Red Tractor Assured food standard as ‘the foundation of our due diligence for meat, poultry, dairy and British produce’, despite scrapping the logo.
The statement added that Sainsbury’s also operates to standards ‘over and above’ those required by the Red Tractor Scheme.
“For example, we pay farmers in our Dairy Development Group a premium for good animal husbandry and environmental practices, and we are the UK’s leading retailer of Freedom Foods selling over 300 lines,” the spokesperson said.
The retailer said it was ‘proud of Sainsbury’s heritage of supporting British farming’, working with over 4,500 farmers and growers across the UK and was committed to ‘clearly labelling British products on our packaging’.
“We remain committed to investing in British farmers and growers, with our ambition to double the amount of British food we sell by the year 2020, as part of our 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan,” the statement said.
A spokesman for the Red Tractor scheme said its 79,000 assured farmers will be ‘dismayed’ at the news. “They work hard to produce affordable food using good standards of food safety, animal health & welfare and environmental protection,” he said.
“A recent survey showed that more than 80% of our farmer members believe the Red Tractor logo is the right tool to communicate to consumers both the good standards that they follow and the origin of the food. This will no longer be available to Sainsbury’s consumers.
“Over the 12 or so years that we have been working with farmers and consumers our research has informed us that to the consumer Red Tractor means ‘great farming, great food’ with nearly 15 million UK shoppers recognising the logo. Sainsbury’s shoppers will no longer have this independent mark of assurance on-pack.”
NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said the decision was ‘extremely disappointing news to farmers who take pride in the Red Tractor logo as a marque of the good standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and traceability to which they produce’.
“It is essential to avoid confusion amongst consumers over the origin of products, not just on fresh meat, but also dairy, processed meat products and fresh produce where confusion is still evident. The Red Tractor is the only guarantee that a product labelled as British is British right through the chain.
He said the NFU had been assured by Sainsbury’s that it will continue to use Red Tractor standards and supply chain validation process as the foundation for its ambitious UK sourcing plans.
He added that to move away from Red Tractor assurance for any additional standards the company may seek to implement would ‘add significant cost and bureaucracy and would be unacceptable to farmers who, through independent, sector-wide assurance schemes have sought to avoid duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy’.
“In our discussions, Sainsbury’s has committed to ensure that any move to adopt higher standards will be done collaboratively with farmer suppliers. It is also important that any additional costs should be covered by the company,” he said.
He described the Red Tractor, which appears on £12 billion worth of retail sales each year, as ‘the benchmark that many consumers actively look for when deciding what to buy’.
The British Poultry Council said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ in Sainsbury’s decision.
“A large majority of British poultry production is done under the Red Tractor poultry scheme which ensures high production standards for poultrymeat,” a BPC spokesperson said.
“Poultry farmers are rightly proud of their production standards and it is therefore regrettable that Sainsbury’s should decide to deprive consumers of that choice.”