/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Are you confused by creative food labels?

Selecting food is no longer as easy as just reading the name on the label – many names might lead shoppers to incorrect conclusions about the foods’ origins or ingredients. Do you know what you’re buying?

Q. Where do Willow Farm chickens come from? A. Not Willow Farm.

In the same vein, Lochmuir salmon doesn’t come from Lochmuir. And you’ve guessed it, Oakham chicken isn’t from Oakham. So what’s going on?

All of these names are inventions by Tesco and M&S and are used to brand their chickens and salmon. The reality is that Willow Farm and Oakham chickens come from farms across the UK and Lochmuir salmon is supplied by several fish farms in Scotland.

Navigating the food label maze

There’s no denying that we are increasingly interested in where our food comes from and it seems that clever branding can help sell products. For me, these names evoke images of farms with chickens roaming freely or salmon swimming in a wild loch.

And there are no rules about using names of specific or made-up locations in product descriptions – other than those with Protected Geographical Status (PGS). Foods such as Stilton cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies and champagne all have PGS and so have to come from the region or place in their titles.

But creating fictitious locations isn’t the only way consumers can be confused.

Do you know the difference between ‘strawberry flavour’ milk and a ‘strawberry flavoured’ milk, for example? The strawberry flavour can come from artificial flavouring but the strawberry flavoured milk has to contain real strawberries.

Ones to watch out for

Here are some other examples we found when we investigated food labelling for this month’s Which? magazine:

  • Covent Garden Wild Mushroom soup contains only 0.6% dried wild mushrooms but 18% normal mushrooms.
  • Homepride Beef in Ale sauce contains 4% ale, no beef stock and 38% tomatoes.
  • Tesco Mango and Passion Fruit smoothie contains 47% apple juice, 23% mango puree and 4% passion fruit puree.

Which? wants consumers to get the products they think they’re paying for and campaigns for honest claims and clear labelling. Have you spotted other examples of exaggerated, confusing or meaningless claims on food or drinks? If so, leave a comment here and email us details (and even a photo) to foodeditor@which.co.uk.

Are you surprised that places like 'Lochmuir' are supermarket inventions rather than real?

Yes - I'm less likely to buy food with made-up places (53%, 543 Votes)

No - I knew they weren't real but I don't really care (20%, 206 Votes)

No - I knew they weren't real and will steer clear (16%, 161 Votes)

Yes - but I'm not less likely to buy food with made-up places (12%, 123 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,037

Loading ... Loading ...

“Some packs are priced at per 100gm and other packs at per 1Kg.
This makes comparison difficult.” [D]

Dead easy.


“I also support the idea of a minimum text size – I might have to put
my reading glasses on to read the detail but I’d like to be able to read
it comfortably then.”[Pat]

I have a small concealed magnifying glass with me always and
especially useful in supermarkets for the very fine prints.


No mattter what regulations we apply to make things better for the consumer, the manufacturers will just stay one step ahead. They are after all profit orientated and so need to be promoting their product ahead of the competition. The example of Strawberry flavour and Strawberry flavoured is a classic example of confusing the customer. The small “Small print” is often so small that people who are not prepared and dont have a magnifying glass with them are stumped.
What about items that have absolutely no description of contents like for example, freshly made bread from the bakers.


I am not worried about obviously made-up names. There was a joke on TV about “Dragon” sausages having to include a disclaimer that they did not contain dragon meat. However, using real names, like “Oakham” can mislead. It is also misleading when product names don’t indicate that the ingredients are bulked up and the flavour overwhelmed by something like apple juice or tomatoes. We need to read the small print – and the small print must not be too small for a middle-aged shopper to need high-magnification reading glasses!


So I am paying a subscription of £9.75 per month to enable Which to carry out investigations and report the obvious that supermarkets make up names for their products.

Not only that but the report is severt fails to warn subscribers that Mr Kipling and Aunt Bessie are not real and there are no anchors in Anchor butter.

Conner says:
19 February 2012

Agree whole heartedly


i am amazed that people cannot see


Cut off in his prime!


I do so agree about the misleading rubbish on food labels. We are meat producers, and could be organic as we fit all the criteria, but the paperwork to be able to do so is ridiculous. It cost a silly amount to be ‘farm assured’ also, which means virtually nothing. I always have a wry smile at stuff labelled ‘farmhouse’ or ‘farm fresh’, I don’t believe consumers are so naive as to believe my kitchen is any different from any one else’s! Larger print on labels would be helpful. Who would have thought that a pack of suet would contain quite a large amount of gluten?


I am amazed that people cannot see that many of the names applied to ready meals are simply
marketing inventions. They are prepared foods for goodness sake, they are not going to be called
Romney Marsh Ultimate or Medomsley Road Gourmet, where you can see the join; if you want to buy prepared foods, be prepared to be sold Duck Farm Speciality, etc.., and, do you like it or don’t you? It was made in a factory.And they all are.Get real.