Customers attack Sainsbury's for ditching Red Tractor

SAINSBURY’S has come under fire on its own website over its decision to drop the Red Tractor logo from the food it sells.

Customers have branded the decision a ‘disgrace’ and some are threatening to stop shopping at Sainsbury’s stores until the logo is reinstated. The move has also been attacked by TV presenter Jimmy Doherty, who described it as ‘an odd thing to do’.

The UK’s third biggest retailer announced it was ditching the Red Tractor logo last week, blaming concerns that consumers were becoming confused about the number of labels on food packaging. It is planning to phase the logo out across its products lines, beginning with fresh meat. 

The decision was condemned by UK farming organisations, which accused the supermarket of making it harder for consumers to identify products that are ‘British throughout the supply chain’ and have been produce to ‘high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and traceability’.

According to comments on the Sainsbury’s website, plenty of its customers agree. Virtually all the comments posted on its ‘British Produce’ pagesince the announcement was made are critical of the decision and accuse Sainsbury’s of failing to support British farmers.

Summarising the views of many others, one poster, Matthew Curtis, wrote on Thursday:  “How can Sainsburys seriously support British Farming if it does not carry the Red Tractor mark on its products. I buy all British and I always look for the Red Tractor as it gives me confidence in what I am purchasing. I will start shopping at Morrisons as they seem to genuinely support the British Farmer. Dropping the red Tractor mark is a disgrace.”

More along that line followed, prompting a response from Sainsbury’s Judith Batchelar on Friday.

She stressed that Sainsbury’s will continue to use the Red Tractor standards ‘as part of our wider sourcing standards’.

“Both country of origin and the Union Flag will be clearly visible on pack,” she wrote.

“There have been suggestions this is a step back from supporting British farmers however it couldn’t be further from the truth; we are actually stepping up our commitment.”

She pointed that Sainsbury’s was aiming to double its sales of British food by 2020 with its ‘20 by 20 Sustainability Plan’ and highlighted initiatives the supermarket has undertaken to support its farmers.  “I do hope this reduces your concerns about our decision,” she concluded.

However, the criticism kept on coming over the weekend.

“I am disappointed to see that the red tractor is going to be withdrawn from you product labelling. I like to support British Farmers, and will no longer shop in your stores unless the red tractor symbol is reinstated,” David Calton wrote in a typical posting on Saturday.

Commenting on Twitter, the NFU’s chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt wrote: “Reaction to Sainsbury’s ditching the Red Tractor logo unanimously negative on Sainsbury’s own website … #PRfail?”

On Monday afternoon, also commenting on Twitter, Jimmy Doherty, of ‘Jimmy’s Farm’ fame, wrote: “@sainsburys Hi guys can you tell me why you have dropped Red Tractor. Seems a really odd thing to do??”

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We passionately support British farming, as we work towards doubling our sales of British food by 2020. We are not changing any of our commitments or standards, we are simply responding to our customers’ desire for fewer logos on pack. We clearly show the country of origin in a product’s title, the ingredients list and by using the Union Jack, making it easy for our customers to make an informed choice.”

Sample of comment on Sainsbury’s website

“You say you support british farmers but you do not support red tractor pork i shall not shop at your stors and I shall tell my friends.”

Ian Saunders 

“Your decision to withdraw use of the Red Tractor label seems to be totally illogical and completely at odds with various statements of “commitment” to British farmers. Frankly, unless that decision is promptly reversed this household, which has been committed to Sainsburys for many years, will be shopping elsewhere, and I am sure many others feel the same. Unbelievable!”

Nick White

“What a kick in the teeth for British Pig farmers! If Sainsbury’s do go ahead with their indefensible decision to drop the Red Tractor I shall NEVER EVER shop with them again and furthermore will make sure none of my very large extended family does either.”

Julia Lister

“To a simple consumer like me, the Red Tractor made it easy for me to know where to shop as I am a huge supported of everything local or British. Keep it clear and continue to support British Farmers it is important.”

Richard Tuplin                                                                            

“Taking the Red Tractor off your packaging not only confuses your customers, it also damages the Red Tractor brand. You should change your mind about this - it would be good PR.”

Sue Butcher       

Readers' comments (10)

  • When Sainsburys say they 'will still display the Union Flag' it means nothing if it is not attached to a robust independent assurance scheme

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  • Sainsbury's say "We clearly show the country of origin in a product’s title, the ingredients list and by using the Union Jack, making it easy for our customers to make an informed choice.”.....Hope this doesn't mean the Union Jack is still on the packaging if the country of origin is elsewhere.
    Farmers have to farm to the letter - why choose not to support this by removing the tractor logo and all it stands for.

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  • I am bitterly disappointed with Sainsbury's I am a farmers wife and have always shopped in store with great confidence. I will certainly be taking my custom elsewhere - I am a WI member and we have campain ed for clearer labelling - the most important one being country or origin - not country where packaged. I am not fooled - I want to buy British, where I know most British Farmers abide by our very strict rules and regulations. Shame on you Sainsbury's at least Ken Morrison farms (not far away from me) and he definitely supports British Produce, and in Ripon he gives free parking!!

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  • Removing the Red Tractor from Sainsbury's shelves definitely damages the brand as well as confusing customers even more with yet another label with no assurances behind it. Whilst a long time Sainsbury customer I haven't bought any meat from Sainsbury for over 10 years due to their constant promotion of imported meat over British and their policy of passing off imported meat as British where in reality it was only packed over here. Where has this new "We passionately support British farming" suddenly come from. In reality the major supermarkets, Sainbury's included have done and continue to do massive damage to British agriculture. Sainsbury's customers are plainly unconvinced and will continue to vote with their feet.

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  • it's disgusting- Saninsbury's pretend they are behind British farmers. Obviously they are not. Yet another example of greed from this supermarket.

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  • Well done Sainsburys ! The cheats will really be annoyed about this They are getting away with flouting the rules for too long .Dont take My word for it.Well respected Suffolk grain trader Graham Henderson wrote about how dissapointed He was to see so many breaches of assurancerules when visiting Farms to pick up samples. Muntons told Me They and many other firms want unannounced spot checks introduced ,so why cant they be?

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  • Well done .Now I hope Sainburys will support every British Farmer.

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  • I am a very controlling person and my extended family are bound to listen to me. They have no choice but to shop where I shop.

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  • The Red Tractor is not a robust assurance scheme. Consumers assume it guarantees all good things (animal welfare/environment impact etc) - the only thing the tractor says is that its British and produced to a MINIMUM standard. Minimum standard is just that .... A union jack does the other. Sainburys have got it right - transparency.

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  • I certainly have not shopped at Sainsbury's since their decision to stop the Red Tractor logo.

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