Modern Marketing

National Farmers Union complains to trading standards over supermarkets like Tesco using ‘fake’ farm brands

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By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

July 18, 2016 | 4 min read

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has filed a complaint to National Trading Standards over some of the UK’s largest supermarkets using “fake” branding to pass off produce as being British when it may actually have been sourced overseas.

Citing Tesco’s recently-introduced Farms range, which uses the names of fictitious farms in a bid to heighten the quality of its products, the union said that such branding could "mislead" consumers.

It argued that names like ‘Woodside Farms’ and ‘Boswell Farms’ could lure shoppers into thinking they are buying goods farmed in the UK.

NFU Tesco Fake Farms

The NFU has filed a complaint around the use of fictional supermarkets / Tesco

“The NFU’s legal team has looked at this carefully and as a result we are asking Trading Standards to look at whether ‘fake’ farm branding complies with the relevant legal requirements,” said NFU president Meurig Raymond.

“I have spoken to senior management at Tesco to highlight our members concerns about the use of these fake farm brands,” he continued, urging retailers to “consider seriously” the results of the group’s recent YouGov survey which showed that mixing imported product with British product under the same fictional farm name can be confusing to consumers.

He added: “British farming is proud of its high standards and the NFU would be delighted to work with retailers to ensure that customers are given clear and unambiguous information about where their food comes from.”

Pork products sold by Tesco under the ‘Woodside Farms’ brand have been found to be from countries like Denmark, while some beef products sold as being from ‘Boswell Farms’ were actually sourced in Ireland.

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Tesco leapt to the defence of its Farms range earlier this year, saying that consumers were more clued up than marketers gave them credit for.

“Some of the commentators don’t really give any credit for how marketing savvy some UK customers are… Do they know that one single farm is not big enough to be able to supply Tesco? They do,” said chief executive Dave Lewis.

“Do they know that one single farm does not supply everything across all product forms? Yes… what was really important to them was do they come from farms? Well clearly they do,” he noted, adding that 95 per cent of consumer feedback for the new brands was “neutral or positive.”

‘Big Four’ supermarket rival Aldi has now made a commitment to only source British product in its fictional farm brands by the end of March 2017.

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