The largest Dutch supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, has launched its own environmentally-friendly logo for fruit and vegetables, complementing its quality labels for pork and dairy products.
The move has been criticised by competitors and food standards experts as making the crowded field of environmental certification even more congested.
‘The more different labels there are, the more consumers will be put off,’ Joyce van de Bos of EKO told the FD.
The ‘Beter Voor’ logo was first placed on Albert Heijn’s dairy products in collaboration with Royal A-ware, with the tagline ‘Better for cows, nature and farmers’. The supermarket chain has stressed the label is not a certification system but an indicator that the producer compensates for their greenhouse gas emissions.
But other food quality labels said the distinction was unclear to shoppers. ‘There is work to be done on Albert Heijn’s adverts. It creates confusion,’ said Gijs Dröge of PlanetProof.
Food quality certification is a growth industry. The market share of products with some kind of sustainability label has doubled in the last four years and in the case of coffee around 40% of brands now carry a logo. The largest Dutch brands, such as Beter Leven, which promotes animal welfare, have around €1.5 million in investment capital.
Non-profit organisation Milieu Centraal, which has secured funding from the agriculture and food ministry to devise a guide to help consumers navigate the certification jungle, has assessed 256 different labels in its Keurmerkwijzer.
Milieu Centraal rates the rating systems using 72 criteria and gives marks for 10 labels, including Beter Leven, FairTrade, PlanetProof and Rainforest Alliance. ‘They have the highest standards in the categories of environment, animal welfare, and work and people, their testing is reliable and the certification is transparent about its working methods,’ the organisation said.
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