22 November 2006

Evil Supermarkets and Organic Labelling

A fascinating story, "Wal-Mart, the Cornucopia Institute and Organic Labeling" unfolds over at Sustainablog.  Is Walmart deliberately misleading consumers?  Is the Cornucopia Institute simply on a self-serving mission of revenge?

When I did a  consulting gig to a major local supermarket chain some years ago,  I learned that people (shoppers, competing merchandisers, illiterate shelf-packers) shifting shelf-labels around, accidentally or mischievously, is always a major headache for supermarkets.

So this would tend to support Wal-Mart's claim...

On the other hand, a (different) local chain, focused on selling into the A-income (rich people) market, screwed a lot of small organic farmers.  Their tactic was to place organic meat close to non-organic meat, with both organic and non-organic products deliberately packaged in very similar packaging.

After 18 months ( a year? two? - memory fails) or so they cancelled all contracts with the organic farmers, putting a lot of farmers out of business in the process.  They also did not bother to mention to consumers that they were dropping the organic meat products, and, although their labelling and packaging was technically legal, many, many consumers continued buying way-overpriced meat in the belief that they were buying organically-raised meat.

So this would tend to support a "deliberate obfuscation" theory...

I wouldn't like to guess what is really going on in the case Jeff wrote about, but it sure looks suspicious to me.

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