The British Retail Consortium has pledged its commitment to recycling logos for packaging, while Tesco adopts a new “Carbon Trust” pack logo and Highland Spring moots putting sustainability data on its packs. Hmmm. James Baker contemplates a pack logo blizzard.
Who: Food producers
When: May 2008
Law stated as at: 30 May 2008
The British Retail Consortium has reiterated its commitment to recycling logos for packaging in its 'pledge for a better retailing climate'. Signatories of the scheme include Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer.
At the same time, Tesco is giving its full support to the Carbon Trust's carbon label by introducing it on the packs of 20 of its products from May. The Carbon label will carry the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted throughout the lifecycle of each product. This Carbon label is already being trialled by Walkers, Boots, Innocent Drinks, Continental Clothing and the Halifax.
Also at the same time, Highland Spring bottled water is at the forefront of a global scheme called the Carbon Action Plan for calculating the sustainability of bottled water. Highland Spring's marketing director Sally Stanley says "I would like to introduce a brand refresh and add a label containing carbon emissions and sustainability data on our packaging".
What has to be on the label?
The Food Labelling Regulations 1966 only require food packaging to carry accurate descriptions of the product, including ingredients, place of origin and sell by date. However nearly all food products currently carry nutritional information even though there is no legal requirement for them.
In addition to these requirements, the Food Standards Agency ("FSA") has a 'traffic light' system denoting sugar, fat and salt content which has been taken up by a number of supermarkets, including Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose. But Tesco, the largest has put forward its own logos dealing with sugar, fat and salt content without the colour coding system recommended by the FSA. Morrisons also have their own scheme which tells consumers what percentage of their recommended daily allowance of sugar, for example, is found in a single serving of the product.
Why this matters:
This desire for brands to show that they are 'green' has meant that food products will soon have another label to join the nutritional information, the salt, fat and sugar contents, as well as the mandatory ingredients, place of origin and sell by dates. However with all these labels, space for information starts to run out. Packaging Federation Chief Executive Dick Searle said in April that "sticking more information on the pack is not the answer".
While having one more label on a product might not seem such a big deal, research has indicated that this plethora of information on the product can be unhelpful. It can confuse the consumer and obscure the brand identity.
Also research has shown that 80% of shopping is carried out in so called "beta mode" with low involvement and decisions made subconsciously. Even assuming all the various logos are understood, hardly a state of mind in which multifarious decals are going to be scrutinised, compared and carefully compared with a view to arriving at the healthiest, most environmentally friendly choice.
So are all these logos worth the no doubt significant sums expended on their design? From where this writer is sitting, the jury is firmly out.