This is what R&D staff thinks of the eco-score: ‘Goal must be clear first’
The Eco-Score is appearing on more and more foodstuffs, although nothing has yet been legally decided. VMT asked various R&D staff what they think about the Eco-Score and what the advantages and disadvantages could be. “We see Eco-Score as an interesting development, but it is definitely still a work in progress.”
With the Nutri-Score being introduced in more and more countries, some retailers and manufacturers are already looking for the next Front-of-Pack logo. The Eco-Score has become a much-discussed new food choice logo. Large retailers such as Colruyt, Lidl and Plus are already using the Eco-Score or are testing the new logo. This is despite the fact that the logo is not yet known to all producers and/or consumers. VMT asked five product developers what they think of the Eco-Score.
Making consumers more aware
Opinions on the Eco-Score are divided. “I think it’s a good initiative in itself. This way, before purchasing a product, consumers can see whether it matches their expectations in the field of sustainability,” Coen Meijer, R&D manager at Pandriks Bake Off, tells VMT. Sharida Abdoelhak, R&D coffee specialist at Euro-Caps B.V., also thinks the Eco-Score is a good initiative. “Consumers should become more aware of the impact of consumer behavior on the environment. The production of foodstuffs and the associated packaging and transport consumes a lot of energy and people do not always think about this.”
“My feeling is that the Eco-Score will cause uncertainty among consumers”
‘Uncertainty among consumers’
At HAK, they closely follow the reporting and development of the Eco-Score, Nicole Freid, director of marketing and innovation at HAK, tells VMT. “It’s not just our mission to get people to eat more vegetables. We also want to do this sustainably with certified and locally grown vegetables. Informing the consumer about the environmental impact of a product in a simple way is something that definitely still needs help. We think an initiative such as Eco-Score is certainly something positive, even if it still needs further development.”
Joeri Hollink, head of product development at Ojah bv, has more doubts. “My feeling is that the Eco-Score will cause confusion among consumers. There must already be so much on a package, which only makes reducing packaging material more difficult. However, I can imagine that the Eco-Score can help manufacturers to accelerate sustainability programs and sustainable sourcing.”
‘Eco-Score provides a faster picture’
Whether they are for or against the Eco-Score is still difficult for the R&D staff. “It’s hard to say, there are already many initiatives that say something about sustainability, and that adds a quality mark/score. The Eco-Score does provide consumers with a much faster picture compared to existing quality marks. If I look specifically at bread, an organic bread will get a higher score than a regular bread. This is justified, given the extra pressure in the chain,” Meijer continues.
Abdulhak dares to say that she is in favor of the Eco-Score. “As a product developer, I know, for example, that the processing processes of coffee beans have an impact on nature and people in countries of origin. The question remains, however, will consumers become more aware of this? Price is often decisive for the purchase, regardless of how the product is produced.”
Although not everything is known about the Eco-Score yet, the R&D staff already have some reservations. “We find the points system of the Eco-Score difficult. This is mainly due to the fact that products can earn both minuses and pluses. However, there is a maximum on both sides. This means that a brand that scores well on the bonus point components and has few minus points, due to the maximum that is set for the bonus points, can still end up with an equal score as a brand that does much less in these areas. As a result, we believe that consumers cannot yet make a fair comparison between products from different brands,” says Larissa Bergshoeff, PR & Communication Specialist at Fairtrade Original, on behalf of the QA and R&D employees within the company.
“I find the message of this label unclear to the consumer”
“Integrate with Nutri-Score”
Freid also has some doubts. “To prevent too many logos – both for the consumer and the producer – it would be even better to integrate the Eco-Score in the Nutri-Score in some way. To combine health and sustainability. After all, you want to be as unambiguous as possible in your communication and not clutter your packaging with logos. But we’re not there yet,” says Freid. “As far as I know, there is also no standardization in the calculation models behind Eco-Score. So we see Eco-Score as an interesting and positive development, but it is still a work in progress.”
Small businesses lagging behind
According to Hollink, this will lead to differences between large and small companies due to the Eco-Score. “Because the Eco-Score has to be calculated per product and life cycle analyzes (LCAs) are very expensive studies, you will see that startups and small artisan producers – who often consciously deal with their footprint – can make the step to retail less easy. This is because the initial investment will be high. In addition, sustainability is a continuous process, in which progress is often made several times a year. An Eco-Score would be reasonably definitive for a longer period of time.”
Message to consumer unclear
Meijer and Abdoelhak are concerned about the scores and the message to the consumer. “Some products by definition have a lower score and cannot easily reach a better score. In some cases, this applies to entire categories. I also don’t really know what the formulas behind the score are, maybe that some products – just like in the beginning with the Nutri-Score – get a wrong score. The logo can also give the wrong impression to consumers about how good – technically and sensory – the product is,” says Meijer. Abdulhak agrees with the latter. “I find the message of this quality mark unclear to the consumer. They may misinterpret this as a new nutritional logo.”
Too many logos
The Eco-Score is another new quality mark/logo. Isn’t this going to cause confusion among consumers and won’t this lead to a jungle of logos and quality marks? “We are currently building on the Fairtrade quality mark, which includes ecological conditions. In addition to the Fairtrade quality mark, there is of course the organic logo and the vegan logo, which also say a lot about how sustainable a product is,” says Bergshoeff. “We think that these labels already provide more specific information for the consumer than the Eco-Score. In our opinion, the Eco-Score is not yet clear enough in which areas a product achieves this score. We certainly think it is a good idea that consumers are well informed about the sustainability of products in order to make a sustainable choice. However, we wonder whether a new logo on the packaging – in addition to many existing logos – will really help the consumer.”
“Confusion with Nutri-Score”
Abdoelhak also has doubts about the amount of quality marks and logos. “At the moment there are various quality marks and logos on foods. Most importantly, this should not be confused with nutritional labelling. Unfortunately, the average consumer is still unable to correctly interpret the information contained in food packaging. I think we should first compare all existing quality marks before introducing anything new,” says Abdoelhak. Meijer is afraid of confusion with the Nutri-Score. “Until now, the label’s design is too similar to Nutri-Score. This should be different, because confusion with the Nutri-Score quickly arises. It should also be clearly explained what is meant by ‘eco’.”
More information needed for implementation’
Should the logo be officially introduced, the R&D staff for implementation will be all over Europe. “If the message has to get across well, it will have to be introduced in several countries. What’s the point of introducing it in just a few European countries?” says Abdoelhak. Meijer agrees. “There is a law of free movement of goods, which means that the same product without Eco-Score can be on the shelf next to a product with Eco-Score if only the Netherlands were to introduce this. So it is stronger once it is deployed at European level.” But before that happens, according to the R&D staff, more information needs to be provided about the Eco-Score. “What is the interpretation of the logo and its purpose? What do we want to achieve with this for consumers”, concludes Abdoelhak.
Article source: VMT.nl