Freedom Food, the RSPCA’s farm animal welfare assurance and labelling scheme, is to be rebranded for the consumer market as ‘RSPCA Assured’.

The new identity will be rolled out next year, some 20 years after Freedom Food was launched, and would be supported by a “significant” marketing push, said CEO Jeremy Cooper. This would comprise TV, outdoor, online advertising and PR “over several years”.

It follows research undertaken by the scheme that found just a quarter of consumers recognised the Freedom Food brand and its objectives, compared with a 96% awareness of what the RSPCA stood for.

“This is a natural next step for the scheme,” said Cooper. “We know from our research that by using a brand so closely aligned to the RSPCA, consumers will immediately recognise it as an animal welfare mark.”

He added that the rebrand would bring significant benefits to its members, retailers and the food service sector as it sought to expand the reach of the scheme to “bring RSPCA standards to millions more farm animals”.

In a clear bid to differentiate it from other farm assurance schemes, Cooper said the new identity and its accompanying marketing activity would also help it educate consumers about the benefits of RSPCA Assured products and change attitudes regarding animal welfare in food production, whether indoors, free range or organic.

Some 70% of all Freedom Food-labelled products are currently sold by Sainsbury’s, but Cooper said discussions were ongoing with other retailers, producers and food service companies to increase membership. “The rest of the industry has a lot to catch up to,” he said.

“The RSPCA has been committed to improving farm welfare since its foundation in 1824, and the launch of Freedom Food 20 years ago provided a unique opportunity to progress that aim,” said chairman of the RSPCA’s council of trustees Mike Tomlinson.

“It is clear animal welfare is still high on the agenda. This move will make it much easier for shoppers to find the higher welfare products they are looking for.”

Sainsbury’s agriculture head Sue Lockhart said: “As the number one retailer of Freedom Food products we know the importance of offering a range of higher welfare products. We welcome this move which is both significant and transformational, and will make it even easier for customers to make an informed choice when shopping.”