Red Tractor is announcing today its intent to substantially increase the strength and breadth of its food chain assurance regime in a bid to become the flagship of British food and farming.
In a significant move, Red Tractor announces that it will create a new suite of ‘Modular Standards’, to sit alongside its current core offering.
The new modules will cover areas such as enhanced animal welfare, organic and environmentally sustainable production and will be launched with a consumer-facing labelling system to improve clarity for shoppers.
Red Tractor is also strengthening its farm inspection programme with measures such as the introduction of more unannounced inspections to improve the integrity of the scheme.
Red Tractor believes that the changes are a vital component in maintaining the trust of consumers and promoting the high standards of UK farming and food production.
Jim Moseley, chief executive, Red Tractor Assurance, said; “I believe that this is one of the most exciting times in Red Tractor’s 19 year history and I am very proud to be leading us through these changes.
“Our vision is that Red Tractor is seen by shoppers, farmers and the food industry as the flagship of British food and farming.
“Red Tractor is already a world-leading assurance scheme; however, we are constantly strengthening our standards in line with scientific advances and consumer demand.
“We know shoppers are increasingly looking for more informed choice and simple signposts to traceable, safe and responsibly produced food, which is why we are looking to extend the remit of Red Tractor.
“Increasing confidence in Red Tractor and the entire UK food industry is vital, particularly as we approach Brexit.”
Red Tractor will communicate to consumers what sits behind the Red Tractor logo through a £1.5m national TV campaign, supported with print, digital and in-store activity. The campaign launches on 12 September.
Moseley added: “We know consumers are twice as likely to look for Red Tractor products if they know more about what it stands for, which is why it is vital we invest in large-scale communications to tell them what we do.”
The assurance scheme will also increase its unannounced inspections following criticism about farmers being able to opt out of checks.
“Our objective is that every Red Tractor member adheres to every standard every day. Failure to do so risks expulsion from the scheme. We know that unannounced inspections add significantly to the trust consumers place in the way their food has been produced,” said Mosely.
“The vast majority of Red Tractor farmers do an excellent job every day. However, those farms that fail Red Tractor standards will find themselves the focus of a tougher inspection regime with greater inspection frequency and unannounced inspections
“The new tougher regime has been in development for the last 12 months and will begin in November 2018 for full roll-out across all farms in 2019.”
To back up the changes, Red Tractor has spent £1.5 million investment on TV advertising, which will launch on 12 September 2018
Designed to increase shopper understanding of what the Red Tractor logo means and the lengths it goes to, to ensure traceable, safe food that is farmed with care.
The announcement was welcomed across the food industry. Andrew Thornber, Morrisons Market Street and Manufacturing Trading Director said: “Red Tractor’s new measures – including unannounced visits – should give customers increased confidence about the standard of animal husbandry on British farms and are therefore to be welcomed. As British farming’s single biggest supermarket customer, we buy directly from farmers we know and trust and it is helpful to have this additional assurance.”
Minette Batters, NFU President, said: “This new advertising campaign will raise the profile and understanding of Red Tractor, farmers and the fantastic job they do producing the nation’s food to high levels of animal welfare and environmental standards.
“Brexit is a game changer for British agriculture and ‘Brand Britain’ must be based on the integrity of robust food assurance. There’s never been a more important time to market and promote great British food and farming, and for us as farmers and growers to reach out to shoppers and encourage them to buy high quality, British produce.
“The message within these commercials is that Red Tractor food is safe, traceable and farmed with care, and to look out for the Red Tractor label on produce when shopping. Research has shown that shoppers are twice as likely to buy Red Tractor labelled produce when they understand the meaning behind the label.”
“Red Tractor’s new modular approach to assurance will give producers a one stop shop for their assurance needs and help to reduce the burden placed on them. There is also the potential to offer a clear and comprehensive labelling scheme for shoppers.”
Wesley Aston, Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) chief executive said: “Against the background of Brexit, it’s more important now than ever that we promote and communicate our farming and food production standards to our own consumers. The modular broadening of the scheme’s standards will also help address consumer confusion around labelling and reduce the burden on farm businesses. Consumer confidence can also be assured in the robustness of the scheme’s high standards with the strengthening of the already comprehensive inspection programme to include risk based unannounced inspections and we will be engaging with Red Tractor to ensure that this is implemented in a practical manner on farms.”