Organic accreditation - a route many bakers have shied away from due to prohibitive costs for what some say is still a niche business - could be about to open up to smaller businesses. Speaking at IFE this week, the Soil Association’s commercial director Jim Twine announced that the organic accrediting body would be lobbying for Defra and the EU to introduce levels of certification so that smaller producers could benefit from the label - a point flagged up by British Baker as lacking last month (BB, 2 Feb, pg 23).
Though this is undoubtedly welcome news, these are giddy times for bakers, having to fathom the myriad labelling schemes for ethically minded consumers. Joining the merry-go-round recently was the ’carbon footprint’ label from the Carbon Trust. This is a badge for those companies reducing the carbon footprint of their products to plaster on their brands (see details in our free Speciality Breads supplement next week). Marks & Spencer, for one, has become evangelical about positioning itself as the ’ethical retailer du jour’ and, last week, felt moved to announce a new ’air freighted’ symbol to flag up flown-in products.
The fact that many organic products (seen as ethical) have to be imported (not ethical) is a moot point. The competing certification schemes, though sharing laudable aims, seem to be adding to a state of confusion rather than actually benefiting the consumer. With labels for the Vegetarian Society, recycled packaging, traffic lights and GDAs bunching up, it is no wonder, as one baker told me this week, that there will soon be barely enough space for the bread’s name!
Though it is easy - and, indeed, healthy - to be cynical about the value of such schemes, health messages are clearly getting through, claimed the Food Standards Agency in its consumer report recently. It emphasises that 71% of respondents were aware of five-a-day, up a third from 2000.
So maybe there is some argument to replace the English language with a series of symbols and graphics that we could all point at and grunt in order to navigate our way through the world. This would no doubt be a boon if the number of barely-literate school leavers that employers complain of is to be believed.