Tesco has faced criticism on social media for the “shocking” revelation that the farms it claims to source certain products from do not actually exist.
Monday saw the launch of brands such as Rosedene Farms and Boswell Farms which now cover Tesco’s own label products.
“We’ve named the brands after farms to represent the quality specifications that go into ever product across the range,” a Tesco spokesperson said.
However, it quickly emerged that these “farms” are fictional, and that a number of these products are sourced from outside the country. This led to anger from the National Farms Union (NFU) which accused Tesco of misleading customers. These customers, meanwhile, proceeded to launch a barrage of complaints against the grocer on social media.
“Shocking! Shoppers deserve to know where their food comes from,” a Tweet said.
“It is clear that Tesco have identified that customers have a positive affinity with farmers and want to capitalise on this,” said NFU Head of Food and Farming Phil Bicknell.
“The key question to ask with this is, what are these brands trying to communicate? If this is not aligned with the origin sourcing and specification of the product we must ask if this is misleading to customers.”
Tesco responded with a statement claiming that each product is “sourced from a selection of farms and growers” and are “reared and grown to our specific standards...”
“Shocking” or otherwise, Tesco is not alone in marketing products in this way. Aldi often marks products with its Ashfield Farm brand, another work of fiction.
“I don’t think it is done maliciously,” said Professor David Hughes, Imperial College London, on Farming Today. “It’s probably a marketing mistake. Let’s have transparent traceable supply chain. And, if there are farms there let’s have a real farm name.”
All else aside, the question remains whether or not this will impact Tesco’s sales.
“One thing we struggle with here is that consumers often behave – i.e. purchase – in a different way from the way they say they want to,” said Professor Nick Lee, Warwick Business School.
“The big question for Tesco is whether this typical social media ‘outrage’ will lead to some negative outcome in terms of purchase. In a competitive grocery space, where consumers are so often purchasing on price, this may be rather doubtful. It certainly ‘feels’ rather misleading, but will consumers respond by taking their money elsewhere?”