Tesco's new regional milk line got an unexpected fillip this week when the Advertising Standards Authority rejected complaints the milk wasn't actually local.
Tesco said it was pleased the watchdog had ruled TV and press ads promoting Localchoice milk were not misleading. But Tesco still faces a Trading Standards probe into the issue and stopped short of calling the decision an 'endorsement'.
Nine members of the public complained to the ASA about ads claiming the milk was locally sourced and paid farmers a better price. Three claimed the milk wasn't local because it was sourced up to 70 miles from the store it was sold and used bottling and processing facilities outside the area. Others said the initiative only helped a small number of farmers and accused Tesco of failing to pay a signifcantly better price.
But in its adjudication, the watchdog said: "Most consumers would interpret the ads to mean merely that Localchoice milk came from farms in their region, not that it had also been bottled and processed there."
The ASA also calculated that the 23p per litre paid to Localchoice suppliers at the time of the complaint in May was a 5ppl premium over the average milk price at the time. And it said there was no reason for viewers to think that farmers unconnected with Localchoice would benefit from Tesco's higher price.
"The ads did not imply that a large number, or even the majority, of small dairy farmers in a particular region would be involved," concluded the ASA.
Defending itself against the complaints, Tesco conceded the number of farms involved was small at 126, but said this would grow with customer demand.
It also said Localchoice was part of a wider £25m investment in improving returns for Tesco dairy farmers.