Green labelling could overwhelm shoppers with data

A proposal to introduce labelling on food products outlining their green credentials has met with mixed reactions from the food industry, with some concerned that it could lead to “information overload” for consumers.

Food labelling
Food labelling

The ‘green label’ is just one proposal being tabled as part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wider consultation process into the UK food industry and what it needs to do to tackle issues of security and sustainability.

Minister for Food, Farming and Environment Jim Fitzpatrick says along with nutritional labelling, it could consider providing on-pack labels outlining the environmental impact of the product.

This could include the number of miles the food has travelled, chemicals used during production, how it is packaged and animal welfare.

However, former Yoplait marketing director Gerry Roads says that, given the current consultation regarding a single front-of-pack nutritional labelling system and a review of the use of “Display until” and “Sell by” labels, “adding another layer to the debate will lead to information overload”.

Instead, he says consumers are now accustomed to finding information about brands and products online, which is where such details could be made available.

But Brandhouse business development director Mark Rae says that there is a real appetite among consumers to find such information at the point of purchase.

“It may be more discreet and could be on the back of pack, but if it’s a brand that is strongly focused on being green then it needs to be part of its key messaging drivers on the front,” he says.

Kellogg spokeswoman Rachel Fellows says it is currently reviewing all the proposals being tabled by Defra and any such labelling needs to provide consumers with greater “clarity rather than complexity and confusion”.

Meanwhile, the Carbon Trust already has a voluntary labelling system which measures the carbon footprints of brands. Those onboard include Tesco, Allied Bakeries and PepsiCo.

Defra’s multi-pronged consultation has been launched in response to the pressures of climate change on food production, the impact the food chain has on the environment, and the health impacts of consumers’ diets.

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