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< Back to news 24 February, 2011

Accreditation schemes

A panel of industry experts discuss the confusion and, sometimes, cynicism over the plethora of accreditation schemes available to industry and their value to business.

This week the EP Purchasing Forum met to discuss further the concept of accreditation schemes and kite marks.


Guest speaker, Penny Beauchamp from Red Tractor: Assured Food Standards introduced her accreditation scheme and discussed some of the challenges faced by the industry, the consumer and the schemes themselves in a landscape cluttered with messages and competing priorities.


Red Tractor – Some quick facts:
• Red Tractor is a kite mark awarded to highlight the origin of food products and high standards in food production across food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection.
• The kite mark represents assurance across the whole chain, from farmers through processors/packers, distribution through to retail and food service.
• The scheme has seen a 60% growth in the last 3 years.
• It is one of the most recognised kite-marks in the UK, being used by over 600 companies such as Tesco; John Lewis; McCain; Cathedral City and Silver Spoon


Penny highlighted:
• The number of schemes/kite marks / accreditations in existence and the confusion generated for consumers and businesses
• The importance of different bodies working together to achieve recognition and to drive improvements across the spectrum


“We work closely with RSPCA Freedom Foods for example. Their core focus is on animal welfare and their standards are higher then ours in that area. It is important for businesses to understand their own demographics and strive for kite marks or accreditation accordingly – if your demographic is particularly concerned with animal welfare then the RSPCA Freedom Food kite mark will be important for you. If you want end to end whole chain assurance then Red Tractor is more applicable”


• Consumer cynicism and education is important
“One of our most powerful symbols is the union flag, in our case this means that the product is whole chain British – born and bred – in other situations it is referring to the place where the meat was sliced. Consumers need educating to understand their choices.”


The discussion:
Does anyone know what these logo’s actually mean?
There was a feeling from the group that there are many standards and kite marks out there but very few consumers actually know what they represent.


Defending kite marks – how do you do it?
The forum discussed the importance of maintaining the integrity of a mark and the difficulty defending it from being misused and therefore diluted.


“It is vital to audit those who are accredited to ensure that they are compliant, and that they are using the kite mark in the right way. The last thing you want is another accredited operator doing the wrong thing and becoming a bad news story in the Daily Mail.”


What do customers and consumers really want?
There was a feeling that this is dependent on the business and in some cases is driven by clients, in others by the end customer. The impact of media hype and ‘fad’ causes as also raised with many feeling that the current trends and media attention dramatically affected consumer demands. Similarly, the impact of the large supermarket retailers and their areas of focus was also noted.


“The problem is customers don’t know what they want until they are told they want it!”

Why do businesses look for kite marks and accreditation?                                  Sometimes it is a case of striving for good policy or practice sometimes it is about driving sales and appealing to the consumer.


“Businesses will only adopt a kite mark if they either see a halo effect or a competitive advantage. There must be a clear understanding that consumers want it before committing.”


Are Red Tractor really doing a job that the government should be doing?
“Champagne is highly regulated and protected by the region and therefore retains its value. Yet if we want to say we have British beef, we have to pay £100 per restaurant for the kite mark?”


Competing priorities and supply – how do we choose and balance?
“ Many consumers now want corn fed chicken and this is seen as an important factor in our purchasing, however there is not enough corn fed chicken that complies with red tractors other assurances. In the end you have to make a choice.”


“This is true – and I’d like to know – when will demand start to drive supply?”


Overall, the forum focussed on Red Tractor as an example of one of many accreditation schemes.