Posted by: secretperson | July 17, 2008

Sainsbury’s English Labelling Reply

Following on from my complaint about anti-English labelling I have now recieved a reply to the complaint I made to Sainsbury’s. I reproduce both my letter and their response in full below.

I wrote:

I noticed as part of your “Buy British” campaign many products labelled with the flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack.

I noticed also a number of products labelled with the national flag of Scotland. The specific examples I quote were on strawberries.

Further investigation showed that Scottish produce carried either the UK or Scottish flags, and the origin was listed by the county and then Scotland. E.g. Angus, Scotland or Perthshire, Scotland.

I also noticed that some of your organic strawberries were labelled from Herefordshire, UK rather than the equivalent Herefordshire, England.

Why is your national origin labelling inconsistent?

As an Englishman I feel my country is being deliberately ignored. A Scottish producer may equally feel by being labelled as Scottish produce they are missing out on your “Buy British” promotion. Visitors to these shores maybe confused by this inconsistent use of our already complicated national terminology.

Though I would prefer you to label by English, Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh origin, I believe the most important thing is that you are consistent.

I look forward to your reply,

The reply was as follows:

Thank you for your email. I am sorry to learn that you find our national origin labeling inconsistent. I appreciate your disappointment, especially as you feel that English products are being overlooked in our Buy British campaign.

Our policy is to label products as British where appropriate. However, we recognize that there is a strong demand for locally produced food in Nothern Ireland and Scotland. We also offer a number of regional lines in the West Country and Cornwall, which we advertise in our stores with shelf labels and posters.

Throughout the UK, we continue to promote the regional source of selected items. These include Cornish potatoes, Welsh lamb, Suffolk pork, South West Country chicken, West Country lamb, West Country veal, Aberdeen Angus beef and Somerset Brie. We also sell locally produced sausages from Kent, Cornwall, and Cambridge in some of our stores. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, we sell meat reared in those countries and label it as such.

I can assure you that we are constantly reviewing our labeling processes and are grateful for your comments. Our marketing team will certainly take them on board to make sure our national terminology is consistent.

Thank you again for taking the time to write with your observations. It is very useful for us to hear where you feel we can make improvements, as this will help us to make things better for all our customers. I also hope that you will continue to shop with us.

Kind regards

Well apart from slightly misunderstanding a few of my points, this letter seems to concentrating more on the marketing side. The detailed origin labelling was equally bad. It seems basically to be saying that Sainsbury’s responds to consumer demand. The answer of course is to demand fair labelling of English produce. Expect more from me on this in the near future…



  1. […] Sainsbury’s English Labelling Reply […]

  2. … Our policy is to label products as British where appropriate …

    What’s that supposed to mean? Surely it would be ‘appropriate’ to label all good sourced in Britain as British?!

    However, we recognize that there is a strong demand for locally produced food in Nothern Ireland and Scotland …

    … and that makes it sound like their is no demand for locally produced food in England.

    I do wonder if they consider England to be too ‘big’ for food produced in the South to be local if you’re in the North and so break it down into regions … strange that the “made in the USA” label was always such a success in that ‘tiny’ north american nation …

  3. Welcome to the club, Secret Person – there are quite a number of us who are unhappy with this situation. But it isn’t only Sainsbury’s – add Tesco, Marks And Spencer, Asda and the Co-op to the list. Please check out some of my posts on supermarkets and England –

  4. Also you might be interested to read about the experiences of Scilla Cullen of the CEP – who took up the issue with Asda:

  5. Thanks Chris, I’ve actually linked to your site on the comments to my original post.

    Government keeps confusing England and Britain, the BBC has been told of recently. We should try and get the shops on board as a kind of bottom up equivalent.

  6. I’m Scottish, and I think it’s a real shame that Sainsbury’s represent my country better than England. I share your views, that each nation in the union should be represented fairly; however, I did not realise that the English felt as brushed aside by the idea of Britishness as the Scots. In any case, it won’t matter a few months from now, as people are forced to avoid Sainsbury’s and their overpriced goods due to credit-crunch backlash. Long live karma!

  7. Thanks pisomojado. You are the second Scot supporting us. I think in the past Scotland has definitely lost out more from the England/Britain confusion and been more aware of it. Post devolution things are changing though, there are a few of us who are concerned, but I don’t think it is too widespread.

    Little things like labelling in supermarkets hide the bigger picture where government and the media also can’t tell England from Britain.

    Nobody benefits so we try to fight it where we can.

    Incidentally, supermarkets have claimed before that Scots won’t buy English labelled goods. I don’t expect a buy English campaign in Scotland, but they must think you are all thick or really racist if listing a county as UK, not England (when Scotland is used) is going to change Scottish minds. I’d be insulted.

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