Milk red tractor logo

Justin King said the Red Tractor scheme set ‘a low bar for entry’

Justin King has made a withering attack on the Red Tractor scheme, claiming its logo does not add value to shoppers and the underlying standards are not high enough.

The Sainsbury’s CEO was challenged by a delegate at the NFU conference today to explain why Sainsbury’s had decided to stop using the Red Tractor logo on its own-label products.

He answered the logo did not help Sainsbury’s shoppers understand what was special about Sainsbury’s own-label products. “It doesn’t differentiate us,” he added. “Red Tractor doesn’t tell our consumers anything special about our products. It doesn’t add any value to our customers.”

The standards required to use generic cross-industry logos like Red Tractor label were not high enough for Sainsbury’s, King added. “Why would we add credibility to a label that pretty much everyone can stick on their products?”

King said he was not singling out Red Tractor for criticism, adding: “We don’t like certification schemes with a low bar to entry.” In contrast, Sainsbury’s liked the Fairtrade logo because the bar to entry for using that was high, he said.

Asked by The Grocer to elaborate further on his comments, King later said space on packs was valuable and “our starting point is that anything on packs should add value”.

“I understand why the NFU wants to promote Red Tractor because they want to promote higher standards across the sector – a rising tide floating all boats. But we do a lot more.

“I don’t want to have something on our packs that someone else can also add to theirs – with little or no cost – and then claim in their marketing the quality is the same.”

Sainsbury’s standards were higher than those required by Red Tractor in all product areas where Sainsbury’s had farmer development groups, King added. “We accept Red Tractor as a baseline standard, and then add on top of that.”

In response to King’s comments, Red Tractor sector manager Philippa Wiltshire tweeted: