Tesco has come under fire after a charity, Feedback, found farmers with the same farm names as the retailer’s “fake farm” brands.
Britain’s biggest retailer launched seven fresh food brands in March 2016 with British-sounding farm names. But some of those farms didn’t exist, and the ones that did, did not supply the retailer those products.
The supermarket faced fierce criticism at the time from farming groups, farmers and consumers, as well as the national press.
Richard Baugh, a Nottinghamshire pig farmer, was contacted by Feedback as his farm, Woodside Farm, mirrors Tesco’s pork brand Woodside Farms, which sells meat from the UK and other EU countries.
Mr Baugh sells Red Tractor-assured pork direct to customers through a meat box scheme called “Bofs Hogs”.
He said: “When [the Woodside Farms brand] first came out customers were asking all the time whether we were supplying Tesco.
“We don’t, our pork is free-range and we think it’s higher welfare and quality than the pork they’re selling, and we’re proud of that.”
Mr Baugh told Farmers Weekly he didn’t think Tesco should be putting lower-welfare imported meat in a package with a UK-sounding farm name.
But he said if it had come from a Red Tractor-assured UK farm, then he didn’t see such a problem with using the name Woodside Farms, even though it wasn’t from a farm of that name.
Letter sent to Tesco
Farmers Weekly understands that Feedback has written to Tesco to raise concern about the use of fictitious farm names on its packaging citing Mr Baugh’s farm as an example.
In a video on its website, the charity said there was also a Woodside Farm in Kent and one in Ireland.
Mr Baugh said, contrary to several media reports, he is not planning on taking legal action.
Another of Tesco’s “fake farm” brands, is called Boswell Farms, selling beef.
Roger Sharpley, who owns real-life Boswell Farm, told Feedback: “It’s an abuse of power. Supermarkets like Tesco have a huge amount of power over producers, especially the smaller ones, and they think they can get away with a trick like this.
“Even if it isn’t strictly illegal, they’re trying to conjure up an image of something that isn’t the reality. And you can bet that if the boot was on the other foot Tesco’s lawyers would be all over it.”
What are Tesco’s fake farm brands?
In March 2016, Tesco launched seven brands called after farms: Rosedene Farms (fruit), Boswell Farms (beef products), Willow Farms (chicken), Nightingale Farms (salad vegetables), Redmere Farms (field vegetables), Woodside Farms (pigmeat products) and Suntrail Farms (imported fruit such as lemons and oranges).
Products from British suppliers clearly display the Union flag, but the same farm name is being used to sell produce when it is coming from overseas – although the country of origin is marked on packs.
What does Tesco say?
Tesco said its customers really liked the new brands and they appeared in 70% of shoppers’ baskets.
Back in March 2016, when the new brands hit the shelves, a Tesco spokesman told Farmers Weekly: “We’ve named the brands after farms to represent the quality specifications that go into every product across the range.
“All of our packaging clearly displays the country of origin on the front of pack to help customers make an informed decision on what they wish to buy.
“All of our British produce is clearly labelled as such, and greater prominence has been given to the Union Jack on pack.”
Feedback could not be reached for a comment.