Leading retailers set to test environmental labels, as IGD mobilises industry to develop harmonised solution

Date : 25 May 2022

Four retailers – Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – will be trialling environmental labels in a virtual reality setting this summer, as the food industry moves one step closer to developing a harmonised environmental labelling scheme.

The trials are the latest phase of a workstream kicked off by IGD at the end of last year, to mobilise the food industry to develop a harmonised solution to environmental labelling. In this, IGD has been supported by a steering group of senior industry representatives, Defra and WRAP, as well as drawing on the expertise of technical consultants Anthesis.

The initial focus of the work has been on developing a strategic framework for an environmental labelling scheme that will provide consistent and transparent information for consumers, enabling them to make more informed choices at point of sale, based on credible data and consistent methods for environmental footprinting. This summer, the workstream will enter its next phase as the virtual reality trials get underway, to test consumer understanding of environmental labelling.

Susan Barratt, IGD CEO, says: “We recognise there is a growing appetite from all parts of the food system to measure and communicate the environmental impact of individual products, to drive positive change in consumption habits. We also know there is a real desire for collaboration, to champion a science-based approach to environmental labelling supported by robust consumer insights. We have been working in close partnership with senior industry representatives, NGOs and technical experts over the last few months to develop an environmental labelling framework; seeing this workstream now move into the trial phase is an exciting next step.”

Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco will be testing the prototype labels, initially in a virtual reality environment, to see how customers respond, before looking to implement in-store. Recent customers from each retailer will be invited to shop a virtual store, recreated using specialist software, through an online survey.

The virtual trials will be used to evaluate consumer awareness and understanding of the environmental label. They will also evaluate the impact of point-of-sale (POS) communications and how to optimise them.

The workstream is underpinned by rigorous consumer research, conducted by Walnut Unlimited, the first phase of which started in January 2022 to test and inform the labelling framework. Phase two of the consumer research is currently underway, to test and inform the label design. The third phase will take place this summer through the trials themselves.

Susan Barratt adds: “Environmental labelling is a very complex area, so the fact we are taking a coordinated approach to drive consensus across the whole sector, with support from leading food companies, is an incredibly important step forward.

“To be successful, any solution needs to be pragmatic, possible for the industry to adopt at scale and able to be used by businesses both large and small. We want to deliver positive, lasting change and look forward to assessing the results of these trials as they progress.”

With its ambition to deliver positive social impact in partnership with industry, IGD already has a rich heritage in bringing industry together to tackle the issues that matter most to society. This workstream builds on IGD’s experience in nutritional labelling, where the organisation has previously led a joined-up industry approach to make it easier for consumers to use and understand nutrition labels and to enable them to draw comparisons between products in a consistent way*.

For media enquiries, interviews or further information, please contact Sarah Burns: [email protected] / [email protected] / t: 07483 094027 / t: 44 (0)1923 851 986

Notes to editors:

  • *According to IGD shopper insight, around eight in 10 shoppers now know that colour coding on-pack can be used to compare products or as a shortcut to make healthier choices, while the same amount again are able to correctly interpret front-of-pack nutrition labels. (IGD Shopper insights: Front of pack nutrition labels, Base 1,019 shoppers, Nov ’20)
  • Environmental Labelling Steering Group members: 2 Sisters Food Group, Co-op, Defra, Greencore, Morrisons, M&S, Nestle, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and WRAP. IGD is also consulting with a broad group of industry stakeholders, NGOs and technical experts
  • Industry representatives are participating in the scheme and trialling environmental labels on a voluntary basis
  • The proposed labelling methodology is being scientifically evaluated by World Resources Institute ahead of in-store execution
  • The research has been conducted by Walnut Unlimited, through qualitative and quantitative methods, blended with behavioural science, neuroscience and semiotics
  • IGD is an organisation of two interconnected communities. The profits from Commercial Insight are reinvested into Social Impact, which together work to drive change that makes a tangible difference for society, business and the individual.
  • Social Impact from IGD is delivered in four key areas:
    1. Economics – supporting better strategic planning and decision making, for the benefit of consumers, through economic analysis and engagement with policy makers
    2. People – focussed on giving young people opportunities to develop their employability and life skills, and on building the knowledge and capability of food and consumer goods industry colleagues, to foster an inclusive and productive workforce;
    3. Health – nutrition experts use the latest research and behavioural science to develop practical tools that help the whole industry. IGD is collaborating with and inspiring companies to adopt best practice and implement change
    4. Sustainability – focused on mobilising the industry to tackle climate change, reduce food waste, increase food surplus redistribution, develop sustainable packaging systems and accelerate the industry’s progress towards Net Zero.
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