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Would you buy food from a fake farm?

Tractor ploughing a field

The National Farmers Union wants to see an end to the ‘fake farm’ phenomenon, as idyllic food labelling might paint a misleading picture. Are you fed up with fake farms on your food?

Fruit from Rosedene Farms and Suntrail Farms might conjure up images of an idyllic corner of Kent, manned by ruddy-faced British farmers and hay-stuffed scarecrows.

In reality, these farms don’t exist. In fact, you might be getting Rosedene Farms strawberries that are from Morocco, or Suntrail Farms cherries that were grown in Spain. But is it a problem that these farm brands are completely fictional? Surely a Rosedene by any other name would taste as sweet?

Misleading brands

Apparently not, at least in the eyes of the National Farmers Union (NFU), which last week complained to Trading Standards about Tesco’s use of fake farm brands.

The NFU said the brands were misleading, as shoppers believe they’re buying British produce when that’s often not the case.

Tesco has been accused of rebranding its Everyday Value line as several different farm ranges as a way to appeal to those who want to support local farmers.

Country of origin

The NFU has also called for better guidance on country of origin labelling on food.

While some of Tesco’s fruit and veg contains a country of origin that you can easily check when you inspect the pack, some shoppers might already have been swayed by the quintessentially British names plastered on the packaging.

Government guidelines on food labelling state that the country of origin must be shown if the food packaging is unclear, for example if the label for a pizza shows the leaning tower of Pisa, but the pizza is made in the UK.

Supermarket chain Aldi, which also came under fire for using fictional farms in its marketing, has promised to only use British produce in its farm brands by 2017.

Is it important for you to know which country your food has come from? And should Tesco follow in Aldi’s footsteps? Do you think Tesco is trying to boost its sales by tapping into the trend of locally-sourced food? Or do you think that the name on the front of the packaging doesn’t matter, as long as the food is of good quality?

Do fake farm brands bother you?

Yes (61%, 1,498 Votes)

I haven’t heard of fake farm brands before (32%, 785 Votes)

No (6%, 157 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,440

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Why Tesco, many other company’s use the same ploy.
The MOST ANNOYING thing I find is “Especially packed/produced for Aldi. Lidl, Asda, M & S, Morrison’s, Sainsbury, Whiterose, Co-op, and any other company you care to mention.
This usually means you will NOT know where the product come from, also a lot of stuff comes in from abroad and is repackaged here in the UK, thus it is now produced or made in the UK.

I have been wondering whether this topic would come up since I have noticed a proliferation of these fake brandings in Tesco. I have to say they’re not very convincing as they are far too corporate and consistent in appearance and the made-up names are straight out of The Archers [strange that Tesco didn’t actually use the name “Brookfield Farm” where it has a large store not far from its former HQ in Cheshunt]. Tesco are floundering at the moment and don’t know what to do for the best. Pathetic marketing might be a useful recovery plan. So far as I have noticed the country of origin of the produce is clearly shown on the packaging as well as on the shelf-label. Methinks the NFU doth protest too much. Would it help if the Rosedene Strawberries had the name prominently shown in Arabic script as well?

I don’t have any objection to “specially packed for . . . ” so long as the country of origin is shown as required by government guidelines [as stated in the Intro].

I am not sure how to participate in the Poll [Do fake farm brands bother you?] which is already showing the results for 185 voters and yet isn’t open for voting! Not a fake poll, surely?

Quite right, John. This topic only arrived today, only 2 commenters spoke before your query, no obvious poll buttons, and yet (still) 185 people have cast their “vote”.

Perhaps the NFU had a preview, or the Which? office. I’m sure there is a simple explanation though.

The main thrust of the NFU’s argument seems to be that UK-sounding names – Boswell Farm for example – might be used on a foreign-sourced product. I would certainly agree that this is misleading if the country of origin is not very prominently shown.

Not very good at polling in this country are we?!!

Hello John, apologies for this poll being temporarily closed, I reopened the poll but didn’t spot your comment to say so.

Hi Malcolm, the poll was temporarily open for a short period last Thursday and collected 185 votes in that period. It was my oversight for not re-opening the poll for Saturday’s publishing date. The poll is open now.

@ldeitz, thanks Lauren. As the Convo didn’t start until 30th, where was the poll taken?

Hi Malcolm, the poll was live on Convo – you’ll see the polls rotate on the homepage or to the side of every convo , the votes are only from people visiting Convo and the poll will still register your vote even though it was closed and re-opened.

@ldeitz, thanks Lauren

I want to see the country of origin prominent on food; rightly or wrongly I have preferences for the source of what I eat.

But as far as “fictitious” farm names are used in the UK, they are just that, simply brand names just as we find on many other products. Like Aunt Bessie’s homebaked Yorkshire puddings, not made by Bessie and not primarily baked at home.

Even if the farm shown were genuine, why should I assume it must be a decent farm with high quality?What is more important is to trust the retailer’s quality. So Oakham chicken, Loch Muir salmon, does not matter to me if they are fictitious as I trust M&S to look after the quality of its products.

Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puddings used to be [and might still be made in Norfolk]. They’re not really puddings either as I understand the term.

I would say I have never had a bad Moroccan strawberry whereas UK produce can be quite variable [largely due to bad storage I expect rather than any lack of quality control by the grower].

Ian says:
30 July 2016

Newspapers reported several weeks ago that this practice was being investigated, by, I believe, Trading Standards.

Some of the goods come from overseas, but at first glance the “brand” name suggests otherwise.

Some of these ‘WHICH’ headlines can be a bit of nonsense they do to catch the eye and provoke debate you even have to be aware of what they are doing. As for this new nonsense of fake farms it should be stopped in its tracks the supermarkets are simply trying to con the shoppers. By all means have a brand but come clean and be authentic with the country of origin added on the label clearly. At the moment supermarkets are trying to morally indicate they are supporting ‘British’ when it may be or not be the case. But and a big but do the majority of shoppers really care?

I can only speak for Tesco because I have not seen any other supermarket ‘fake farm’ branding; I can confirm that the country of origin is clearly shown on the packaging. Perhaps the other companies don’t perceive they have an image problem and so are more than happy to trade under their own name.

The country of origin details are important. Some fruits and vegetables are not [or cannot be] produced in the UK so I wish to know which country the imports are from. Spain [including the Canaries] produces a vast amount of fruit and salads but little of outstanding quality. France and Italy are our favoured producers of soft fruits like peaches, nectarines, and grapes so we check before buying.

I have noticed an increasing amount of local [Norfolk] produce in Tesco and Morrison’s lately.

E I E I O!

Looked at yesterday’s shopping basket and all items show where the product was made or packed and the source of the ingredients – such as Irish mushrooms, Honduras Prawns, North Atlantic haddock, Peruvian avocados….. i’m happy that if I find that information important, it is there to see.

Most adverts and always a con just to make you spend you money sometimes on things you do not need at all. I just make my own mind up and try to ignore the hype in the advert If anyone tries to push things on me by constant advertising the are just putting me off buying their product or from themYou only need to just look at anything online and you are bombarded with adverts. I then will definitely not buy or buy from them

I look at the origin of fruit & veg and buy local produce if possible. With global warming, I’m half expecting to see oranges and bananas from Kent. 🙁

I am aware of the Tesco fake farms and noticed that the brands are used on produce from various countries. I hope the NFU is successful in getting rid of these brands and hope that we can also get rid of the fictitious ‘Lochmuir’ brand.

OK, let’s get rid of Rosedene (name inspired by Thomas Hardy?) and Lochmuir, but seriously, did anybody ever think the cakes actually came out of Mr Kipling’s kitchen? In the website they talk about him as if he were a real person. Where do we want to stop the fakery, where do we want to draw the line, how do we measure what is grossly misleading and what, at any rate at first glance, appears to be harmless fiction?

Absolutely, let’s get rid of fake names, but I’m far more incensed by Tesco’s cantaloupes coming from as far as Honduras (do we sell them Brussels sprouts from the Rancho Vallerosa?) when we’re in full season now in Europe (I never began to believe there is such a place as Rosedene Farm, c’mon). To me that’s even worse than fruit and veg out of season here being available from the southern hemisphere all year round. But that’s another subject. Or is it? All part of the big picture?

Thanks for the Thomas Hardy reference Beryl – I don’t recall it myself but I expect it’s from one of the Wessex novels. I should be interested to know where the inspiration came from.

There are a number of Rosedene Farms around the country possibly also inspired by a place in Hardy’s Wessex. There are also some Redmere Farms. I wonder what the farmers think of Tesco using their names in a misleading manner. I haven’t bought any of these products because I prefer to buy fruit in packaging with the actual grower’s name and location [and the specific variety] declared. I hadn’t realised they were their economy version – with fruit that is never a good buy and Tesco’s fruit is some way down the taste & flavour scale anyway in my opinion

I wonder where this sort of falsification sits in the “Legal, Decent, Honest, Truthful” motto of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Sophie – I agree that we need to tackle the problem of ‘fresh’ food being transported long distances, but the governments don’t like to interfere with free trade and I expect that the majority of consumers would put freedom of choice above environmental considerations.

The fake farm names are less of a problem, but I’m not keen on the misrepresentation that pervades advertising and other forms of marketing. As you say, it’s difficult to draw the line and marketing has gradually pushed the boundaries of what we will accept without complaint. I have bought fruit & veg branded Rosedene etc when there is no local produce but as a Scot I have no intention of buying anything branded Lochmuir.

Increasingly we are informed of where British fruit & veg are grown and if this information is honest, it is a welcome form of marketing, even if the aim is to encourage us to pay more.

My apologies to Sophie and Beryl for getting your names muddled up in my post at 11:21 today.

Cheers, John.

My turn to apologise, to those whose farms are called Rosedene and thinking immediately that the name was fake. My excuse is the context, and I guess supermarket tactics have made me over suspicious and cynical over the years. A good thing in a lot of cases but perhaps not in all.

Maybe the British Rosedene farms could turn this to their advantage. I hope so.

If enough people felt strongly enough about buying beans and flowers from Africa, fruit from South America, meat from the Antipodes……..and stopped buying them there might be some impact. As usual, voting with your feet – or lack of – perhaps shows the lack of real support for these proposals.

For the same reason, people continue to take cars into city centres despite serious air pollution. You and I might avoid doing this but it won’t help if everyone else does.

At least there is plenty of British and even locally produced food in the shops at the moment.

Although we sometimes buy Kenyan runner beans during the year we cannot wait to enjoy UK runner beans when they come into season shortly; they are simply the best. Same with Cox apples – the NZ ones just haven’t quite got the nutty bite and tang of the English produce [perfect with a medium Cheddar cheeze]. Coming next on my seasonal agenda are English Victoria plums and greengages which are also beyond compare.

Our local produce at the moment is cucumbers and tomatoes from the greenhouse, runner and broad beans from the veg. plot, raspberries, and just waiting for sweetcorn. If you’ve never grown the latter I think it is unbeatable; easy to grow, takes up little room and as the sugar starts turning to starch as soon as it is picked you can pop it in the saucepan straight from the garden and get the most sweet and delicious starter – lots of butter for us. All under the Home Farm brand (apart from the butter. 🙂

You are forgiven for that slight oversight John. Beryl incidentally does happen to be my first name, it is not fake but I am more widely known by my second name which has to remain confidential for Which?Convo.

Back to topic, I tend to avoid buying fresh fruit and veg in packages if possible but I have noticed lately how tasteless eating apples have become so have switched to organic which seem to have more flavour, which begs the question, do fake package names also apply to organic fruit and veg?

I like to support local farms by buying local meat from butchers you can see the joints being cut. Supermarkets can hide a lot when meat is packaged. Fruit in punnets hide some fruits going off. Why make a double journey (to return food which is not up to standard) when you can buy with confidence from a friendly face at your local market or even your local corner shop…Not that there are many of those these days. Fake farms do not bother me, I’m too old to be caught out by that. Yes, I do use supermarkets, all that are available to me in my local area . I shop like my Mum did back in the 40’s and 50’s …Start at the furthest point and walk back, shop by shop then jump on a bus, perhaps having saved a few ‘Bob’, and also the benefit of the exercise as well, not to mention the chance of bumping into a friend and having a chat over a coffee.

Phil says:
3 August 2016

I just regarded this sort of thing as branding and never thought of it as an intention to deceive. After all it would have to be a good sized farm to provide Tesco with all it’s strawberries or cherries.