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Supermarkets and sustainability news

02 August 2004
Asda boosts revenue selling locally sourced goods

Britain's second-largest supermarket chain has boosted revenue by £160 million after doubling sales of locally produced foods. Asda began selling local goods two years ago. Now, the Leeds-based company offers 900 items ranging from sausages and eggs to fruit and vegetables.

Customers are prepared to pay more for foods produced closer to their homes, said Karen Todd, Asda's head of local sourcing."People feel a great affinity with the place in which they live and want to do their bit to support local business," Todd said in an interview with Bloomberg.com. "Food is a distinctive part of Britain's culture. Customers just can't get enough of local products."

Source: Bloomberg

3:35:43 PM   

Growing global movement to ban plastic bags

There is a growing international movement to ban or discourage the use of plastic bags because of their environmental effects. Although plastic bags didn't come into widespread use until the early 1980s, environmental groups estimate that 500 billion to 1 trillion of the bags are now used worldwide every year. Critics of the bags say they use up natural resources, consume energy to manufacture, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste.

Countries that have banned or taken action to discourage the use of plastic bags include Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan. Mumbai, India, also has banned the bags, and action is beginning to stir in the United States.

In the UK, the Co-op plans to launch degradable plastic bags for its bread. The new bread bags should degrade within four years, compared to the 100-year plus life of a traditional polythene bag. The Co-op has also brought in biodegradable bags for shoppers to pack their purchases in, according to newspaper reports.

Source: Organic Consumers Association, reuseablebags.com, The Grocer

3:24:58 PM   

Retailers welcome farm pricing report

The British Retail Consortium has welcomed the conclusions of a Government-commissioned report on farm pricing. The research, commissioned by Defra and carried out by London Economics, was designed to investigate the farm share of final retail food prices.

Kevin Hawkins, BRC Director General, said: "The London Economics report proves what we have always known, that falls in farm-gate price are passed on to consumers at retail level just as quickly as increases in farm prices. The report also shows that there is no significant relationship between the strength of the UK supermarket sector in UK food retailing and the difference between prices paid to farmers and the price the consumer pays."

Source: British Retail Consortium

2:54:12 PM   

19 July 2004
M&S is company of the year

Marks & Spencer has been awarded Business in the Community's Impact on Society Award in recognition of its track record as a responsible retailer.

Source: Marks & Spencer, BITC

2:27:00 PM   

Supermarket meat adulterated

Some raw meat being sold in leading UK supermarkets has been injected with water and additives without adequately warning consumers of the adulteration, according to a report in Food Production Daily.

Shropshire County Council's trading standards service found that raw pork with added water is being sold alongside genuine uncooked pork, often at a premium price. Tesco has confirmed that it injects its "Finest" pork: "The water isnt injected to add weight or dupe customers," spokesman Steve Gracey said. "It is added to improve eating quality."

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has pressed the Food Standards Agency to intervene in the matter.

Source: Food Production Daily

1:45:22 PM   

Tesco expands into China

Tesco has signed a joint venture deal with China's largest food company, Ting Hsin, representing the first move into China by Britain's biggest supermarket chain. Tesco is to buy 50% of Ting Hsin's hypermarket division (Hymall) for £140 million.

Tesco currently has a presence in 12 countries, including Hungary, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. "China is one of the largest economies in the world with tremendous forecast growth," said Tesco's Sir Terry Leahy.

Source: The Grocer [sub req], Reuters, BBC

1:30:03 PM   

Co-op publishes corporate responsibility report

The Co-operative Group has published a Corporate Responsibility Report, which lists the Group's ethical achievements during 2003, as well as highlighting areas it will focus on in the future.

Source: BITC, Co-op

12:51:11 PM   

Consumers would support farm shops and farmers' markets

New consumer research, commissioned by the National Farmers' Retail & Markets Association (FARMA), has found that almost 90 per cent of households would buy from farm shops and farmers' markets if they could.  This is three times the current level of regular purchasing from farm shop or farmers' markets.

Source: Eat the View

12:35:25 PM   

05 July 2004
Academy for Corporate Social Responsibility announced

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Minister, Stephen Timms today launched a new, dedicated academy to help CSR take a big leap forward.

The new CSR Academy, established through close Government, industry and key stakeholder co-operation, will be a new resource for organisations of any size and any sector wanting to develop their corporate social responsibility skills. It will provide a central source of information for training and development with the aim of integrating CSR into day-to-day business practice. CSR Academy resources are available online at http://www.csracademy.org.uk.

Source: GNN

4:22:06 PM   

Supermarkets failing disabled customers

Only one of the five leading UK supermarket websites meets the basic accessibility needs of disabled customers, according to a new survey from computing and disability charity, AbilityNet.

The survey audited the UK's top five supermarkets, looking at both usability and accessibility. AbilityNet found that only Tesco's alternative website [www.tesco.com/access] provided easy access for people with a vision impairment, dyslexia or physical disability making mouse use difficult, gaining a four-star rating on AbilityNet's five-star scale.

The charity said that none of the other sites passed even basic levels of accessibility and, as a consequence, are "losing out on a massive market opportunity".

Source: netimperative

4:13:43 PM   

OFT inspects supermarket practices

The big four UK supermarkets are expected to be questioned over allegations that they are giving their suppliers an unfair deal, according to reports. The government has expressed concerns about the treatment of farmers and manufacturers by Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Safeway/ Morrisons.

The Office of Fair Trading ordered the probe into supermarket practices after initial checks indicated that the voluntary code on suppliers was being violated.

Source: Grocer [sub req], ThisisCornwall

4:01:42 PM   

Supermarkets ripping off customers

An investigation has criticised supermarkets for ripping off its customers. It noted that many were charging up to 30% more for some products bought in bulk than for the same products purchased in smaller quantities or individually.

The investigation found that Tesco and Safeway appeared to be among the most likely to be guilty of this practice but smaller numbers of overpriced bulk items were also found at Sainsbury, Waitrose and Asda.

Source: Grocer [sub req], ThisisLondon

3:51:59 PM   

Organics in demand

According to the Soil Association, UK consumer demand for organically produced food is outstripping the rest of Europe, with sales rising by £1,700,000 per week.

Source: Observer

3:45:15 PM   

21 June 2004
Accountants call for verified CSR reports

The European Federation of Accountants (FEE) has issued a report saying that corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting should be given the same status and recognition as financial reporting, and be subject to independent assurance and verification.

The group is calling on the European Commission's Multi-Stakeholder Forum to include these measures in the recommendations they are due to publish in the next few months.

Source: edie

4:27:48 PM   

Retailers set out their sustainability credentials

When food retailers and producers all over the world met at last year's CIES industry summit, they were set five tests by celebrity speaker Bob Geldof to see if their company's business was sustainable.

Meeting again last week at the 2004 summit, representatives from five food retail groups from across the world were asked to comment on initiatives they were currently carrying out to try and meet these targets. All of the panellists went to great pains to stress the positive steps they had taken towards promoting a sustainable food trade.

Further reading: World Food Business Summit 2004: Executive Summary [pdf]

Source: Food & Drink Europe

4:26:03 PM   

Farmers, Friends criticise Tesco

Britain's largest supermarket chain faced criticism at its annual meeting as it unveiled another strong performance on the high street.

Farmers accused the supermarket giant of treating British producers in a "ruthless" way by driving down prices to rock-bottom levels. Members of agricultural lobby group Farm protested outside the conference centre to highlight what they described as Tesco's role in perpetuating the farming crisis.

Friends of the Earth also protested over Tesco's record on buying products from parts of the world where human and environmental rights are abused. The group called on Tesco to do more to ensure it was not sourcing products containing palm oil from deforested areas, and from producers which violated workers' rights.

Source: Independent, icWales

4:02:52 PM   

10 June 2004
Farmers and retailers endorse milk report

Farm leaders have endorsed a report by MPs which says the milk market is not operating properly. The report concluded that was a lack of transparency and trust in the supply chain, and there was a margin of the retail price the committee could not account for. It also said there was a fundamental imbalance of negotiating strength between supermarkets and their suppliers.

"It is important that the government and competition authorities take heed of the report's findings," said dairy board chairman Gwyn Jones. "The NFU believes this report is an informative analysis of the events leading up to the price negotiations last autumn. We must all learn the lessons of that experience."

Food retailers have also voiced their support for the EFRA report and backed calls for the Government to maintain its role as the driving force behind the Dairy Supply Chain Forum.

Source: FWI, NFU, BRC

4:04:48 PM   

Retail chains jacking up prices on fair trade products

As "fair trade" begins to catch on in the U.S., Europe's experience shows that the biggest winners aren't always the farmers -- but can be retailers that sometimes charge huge markups on fair-trade goods while promoting themselves as good corporate citizens. They can get away with it because consumers usually are given little or no information about how much of a product's price goes to farmers.

Sainsbury's, a British supermarket chain owned by J Sainsbury PLC, has sold fair-trade bananas at more than quadruple the price of conventional bananas, and more than 16 times what growers receive. Tesco PLC, another chain, recently tacked on $3.46 per pound for fair-trade coffee while the grower gets about 44 cents above the world market price.

"Supermarkets are taking advantage of the label to make more profit because they know that consumers are willing to pay a bit more because it's fair trade," says Emily Dardaine, fruit-product manager at Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, or FLO, a Germany-based federation of fair-trade groups.

Source: Organic Consumers' Association

3:47:55 PM   

IGD to reward CSR excellence

IGD is challenging companies to demonstrate their good work and how much they put back into society by entering The Nestlé Award for Social Commitment, part of the 2004 IGD Food Industry Awards. The Nestlé Award is presented to the company that has demonstrated a proven long-term commitment to society and social issues through a local or national initiative.

Source: IGD

3:31:11 PM   

Biodiversity theme for World Food Day 2004

Each year on 16 October, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations celebrates World Food Day in commemoration of its founding on that day in 1945 at Quebec City, Canada. The theme for World Food Day and TeleFood campaign for 2004 is "Biodiversity for Food Security". It will highlight biodiversity's role in ensuring that people have sustainable access to enough high-quality food to lead active and healthy lives.

Further reading: http://www.fao.org/wfd

2:30:18 PM   

A Wal-Mart in every land

US retail giant Wal-Mart has said it wants to have a store in every country in Europe, either by opening its own stores or making large acquisitions. Seeking to to quell speculation that any near-term deals were planned, President and Chief Executive H. Lee Scott said: "It's not liable to happen next month or even next year, maybe."

With sales growing by 5% last year to USD256 billion, Wal-Mart remains the undisputed champion of the grocery world. As at the end of fiscal 2003, it operated a total of 5,374 stores across 13 countries, having opened 679 stores over the year.

Source: just-food.com, M+M Planet Retail, cnnmoney

2:24:06 PM   

Recipes for disaster

New research from the UK's Consumers' Association has exposed huge variations in the amount of salt and fat found in different versions of five popular ready made foods, with some products containing as much as three times the fat per 100g and up to nine times the amount of salt of their rivals.

Source: Food Production Daily, Which

2:13:23 PM   

24 May 2004
Fairtrade recognition soars

Two in five of the British adult population now recognise the FAIRTRADE Mark, soaring from one in four in 2003, according to a MORI poll commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation in March 2004. The level of awareness of what the Mark stands for has also increased.

Some 63% of people who recognize the Mark say they have subsequently bought Fairtrade products and 86% of people who buy Fairtrade products say the Mark is "fairly important" or "very important" to them.

Source: Fairtrade foundation

5:20:30 PM   

Retailers and unions welcome gangmasters report

Responding to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee's latest report on gangmasters, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has supported the call for the Government to introduce a co-ordinated approach to weed out rogue gangmasters and their illegal activities.

Kevin Hawkins, BRC Director General said: "The report has recognised that food retailers have done more than any other part of the food chain to stamp out rogue gangmasters and their illegal practices. The criminal elements are driven by their own greed pure and simple. They do not serve the interests of the retailer, farmer, manufacturer or the consumer.

Tony Woodley, the Transport & General Workers' Union's General Secretary, said it was good that the committee had now supported the cause. He added that a concerted approach across parliament was now required to turn the bill into law which would address many of the other issues raised by the committee.

"Taking action to end the exploitation of vulnerable people by gangmasters is long overdue," he said. "The case for change is overwhelming and we welcome MPs on the Efra Select Committee joining the campaign for licensing and registration.

The National Farmers Union's head of Parliamentary affairs, Barney Holbeche, also welcomed the report, saying: "It is imperative that any additional costs to business arising from licensing are shared within the food chain, rather than retailers pushing the costs back up the chain to primary producers. This is a very positive step forward, and we hope that peers will give the Bill a fair wind in the House of Lords."

Source: BRC, T&GWU, NFU

5:15:04 PM   

10 May 2004
Taking on the Goliaths

Milton Keynes' food-producing Davids are taking on the supermarket Goliaths. Thirty-five of them within a seven-mile radius have joined Anthony Davison's new food revolution.

This aims to help consumers buy more fresh, locally-made, produce. His BigBarn website's customers include pick-your-own strawberries in Moulsoe, pork and lamb from Woburn, and Beachampton's organic farm shop. He said: "Since all the food scares, people want to know exactly what they're buying, where it comes from and how it's produced. Our website gives consumers opportunities to buy meat, game, fish, fruit and vegetables, cheese and dairy products, drink, bakers' products and nursery plants direct from the producers."

Source: Serious About News

2:43:08 PM   

Strongarm supermarkets 'put suppliers in fear'

A terrifying picture of the power Tesco and other British supermarkets wield over their suppliers is painted in Sold Out: The True Cost of Supermarket Shopping by William Young.

The book accuses Tesco of paying its suppliers the lowest prices of any supermarket in Britain. And it accuses Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Safeway of bullying actions against suppliers and farmers that go "way beyond efficient business practices".

Source: Sunday Business Post

2:39:56 PM   

Job cuts in Somerfield shake-up

The supermarket chain Somerfield has announced plans to drop its Kwik Save brand in Scotland with the loss of about 400 jobs. The company said 29 of the Kwik Save stores will be renamed Somerfield outlets and a further 22 will be closed by the end of the year.

Source: BBC

2:32:18 PM   

£2.5m pledge to help UK farmers

Ministers have pledged the first instalment of a planned £2.5 million five-year grant to boost efforts to help farmers work together to get more competitive and profitable.

English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP), which helps to promote collaboration and cooperation between farmers and the rest of the food chain, will get £500,000 this year with the government intending to provide funding at the same level in each of the next four years.

Defra's new grant will pay for a range of activities to be agreed between Ministers and EFFP.

Source: defra, EFFP

2:30:54 PM   

Packaging waste not being recycled

New government figures reveal that only 14.5 per cent of household waste in England was recycled in 2002/3. Food and beverage packaging makes up the bulk of this waste.

"The government is clearly not doing enough to tackle the UK's waste crisis and seems set to miss its target of recycling a quarter of household waste by 2005. Increasing amounts of waste are being generated, and far too little is recycled," said Clare Wilton, waste campaigner for UK pressure group Friends of the Earth.

Source: Food production daily

2:27:33 PM   

Wal-Mart begins supply chain revolution

Wal-Mart and eight product manufacturers have begun testing electronic product codes, or EPCs, at select Supercentres in the US. If successful, the concept will change forever the manner in which manufacturers and retailers operate.

"This pilot is the next step in Wal-Mart's addition of radio frequency identification, also known as RFID, to improve product availability for Wal-Mart customers" said Linda Dillman, executive vice president and Chief Information Officer.

Some manufacturers continue to harbour reservations about RFID, but with retail giants such as Wal-Mart calling the shots it seems likely that suppliers will have little option but to implement.

Source: Food and Drink Europe

2:22:25 PM   

Taking the pain out of going green

Reward and recognition could be a more effective way of changing people's behaviour to green, rather than punishing and taxing them for not being environmentally friendly, says a new report by the National Consumer Council (NCC) and the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

The report, 'Carrots not sticks: the possibilities of a sustainable consumption reward card for the UK' [pdf], highlights a creative initiative that will use the principles of a loyalty card to reward sustainable behaviour, raise awareness, and lead consumers to demand more green goods and services.

Ed Mayo, Chief Executive at the NCC says: "If we want to reduce waste, cut greenhouse-gas emissions and clean up energy production, we are going to have to change our behaviour.

"More than half of household waste is supermarket packaging, which consumers are obliged to accept. The problem is that people's efforts are not rewarded in any way. Nor are they recognised. Our research shows that what people want is carrots, not sticks.

"We would like to see the UK adopt a scheme for an NU smart card - like the one in Holland. The idea is quite simple. Consumers get points for separating waste and buying sustainable products such as energy-efficient, fair-trade goods, bicycles, repairs and second-hand goods."

Source: National Consumer Council

2:06:57 PM   

Fairtrade produce comes to the US

Bananas with "Fair Trade Certified" stickers represent the new front of an international effort to help first-world consumers improve the living standards of the third-world farmers who grow much of their food.

Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate are well established in European markets, and have been available in the US at premium prices since 1999. Fair Trade bananas and pineapples are already available, and grapes, mangoes and orange juice are in the pipeline.

Source: New York Times

2:00:03 PM   

What's really in your food

It may look tasty but today's packaged food is a chemical cocktail of additives, fats and sugars, says Felicity Lawrence in her book Not on the Label.

Further reading: What's really in your food, Our daily bread, Bugs, Sweat and Fears

Source: Times, Guardian

1:49:49 PM   

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