Organic has taken a bit of a battering this year . UK sales seem to be down in many sectors: TNS reckon -14% year-on-year. The recession caused many light-green consumers to question the benefits they got from organic purchases and the FSA’s badly designed attack on nutritional benefits did not help.
Envious eyes have been cast towards Fairtrade where a single logo, a single message and tightly-targetted promotional activity have continued to generate market growth, with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and KitKat being the latest high profile recruits to the Fairtrade cause. The organic sector has responded by forming the Organic Trade Board (www.organictradeboard.co.uk ) which is on target to bid for matched EU funds to launch a promotional campaign that will make the case to consumers for organic food and drink ( www.organicuk.org ).
The single logo challenge is more problematic. Buy organic foods in the UK and you are likely to find any one of half a dozen organic certification logos on pack. Alternatively you might find a non-UK organic logo on the pack , or you might even find no organic logo at all (perfectly legal).
Now the EU have got involved. As of next year every organic line produced in the EU will have to carry a mandatory new organic logo on its label. And because Europe is a collection of democracies we get a chance to vote for the logo we want, from a selection of three. The only problem is that all three logos are terrible. See for yourself athttp://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/logo/index_en.htm . I remonstrated with Craig Sams, one of the judges who had selected these three designs from and he assured me that the other 3,419 had been worse, which frankly is hard to believe. I sought the advice of the head of one of the UK’s most successful design companies and this is his verdict: “All poo. Number Three is fractionally less poo than the other two but all are the equivalent of a big pile of poo on a plate of dung.”
All over the EU companies will be incurring needless expense to add one of these ghastly logos to their labels. Will doing this help consumers recognise and understand organic products more easily? Not one bit.
What can we do? Protest. The Freiburg-based lawyer Hans-Peter Schmidt recommends that people who oppose the logos state their opinion by writing to the organisers([email protected]) and to the EU ( [email protected]). According to Hans-Peter Schmidt, “The three drafts do not fit the purpose. They do not clearly say ‘This is an organic product’. When displayed in a minimal version on the product packaging, one can hardly recognise them.” He recommends that, if you do not agree with any of the drafts, you vote with a NO by sending an email saying “The three organic draft logos put up for a public vote do not communicate that the product is organic. None of the three is distinctive when printed in small scale on packing. I vote NO and reject all three.”.
Please visit the logo website and then send your emails, while the horror of what you have seen is still fresh in your mind. Do it for organic shoppers as yet unborn. You know it makes sense (unlike the organic logos).
By Simon Wright
Organic and Fairtrade brand specialist
Simon Wright is the founder of OF+ Consulting. A former technical director at Green & Black’s and Whole Earth he is one of the foremost brand advisers to the natural and organic sector.