Logos to identify green products and packaging will become increasingly common, but could lead to tension as competitors fight to keep their brands looking unique, says industry expert.
Increasing numbers of manufacturers have been upping their green efforts as concern grows on the impact of food production and consumption on the environment.
Tom Scourfield, a lawyer with CMS Cameron McKenna specialising in the food industry, said that while such logos have the benefit of providing an immediate indication of green efforts, a plethora could lead to consumer confusion and conflict between brands.
As a result, it is something regulators have said they will be monitoring to ensure all logos are properly explained to the consumer and are not misleading.
"Organisations that have developed their own branded logo do not want others to use it," Scourfield told FoodProductionDaily.com
"This means consumers will be forced to make environmental choices, not on the basis of recognised symbols like the Mobius loop, which indicates a product is recyclable, but on lots and lots of new, little logos. Therefore it is not particularly encouraged by regulators."
Because green advertising issues are still a relatively new concept for consumers when making food and drink choices, Scourfield said manufacturers have to keep the information clear and straightforward.
He said: "Environmental sustainability affects everything from the cradle to the grave. A logo in itself is a good thing as it will aid consumer understanding of efforts made by the company. But it must be explained, in very clear terms, what that symbol means and what it represents"
According to Scourfield, a lot of companies have already developed logos or are planning on doing so as they attempt to encapsulate the efforts they are making.
Last month for example, the US arm of global packaging firm Tetra Pak launched a new logo designed to demonstrate the company's green credentials on its packaging.
In an attempt to demonstrate increased sustainability at first glance, the green logo featured a symbol to signify more trees above a 'minus CO2' sign, encircled by a 'renewability matters' logo.
However, for logos that are not long-standing and widely used, like the mobius loop, manufacturers are reluctant to use the same logos, according to Scourfield.
He said: "Competitors who produce similar products would naturally prefer to have them easily distinguishable and not have common branding or logos. I think it will be a real area of conflict, leading to brand tension. Regulators will be on the lookout for any consumer confusion."
Relating efforts to the consumer
Manufacturers are eager to demonstrate the efforts they are putting into supporting sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint, but face many challenges in doing so as general claims are hard to substantiate and are subject to approval by the appropriate advertising authority.
In 2002, Mintel's global database recorded only five product launches across all sectors of the industry that were aimed at providing a greener approach. In 2007, there were 328 new products, representing a 200 per cent increase since 2006.
"We are starting at an early stage with green issues, and so manufacturers need to keep it simple," said Scourfield. "When companies first started highlighting calories on packets, it took a while for people to understand the issues, but now consumers are used to calorie counting.
"People tend to feel very strongly about what they are eating, and companies love branding as it makes their proposition unique. But when it comes to green advertising, you have to keep it simple."