Judge and Jury: Co-op turns the tables with appetising report on labels - The timing of the release of a Co-op report on food labelling was such that almost all media swallowed the story whole, says Tina Fotherby, director at Nexus PR

When the Co-op launched its new report, ’Lie of the Label’, it generated major newspaper stories and sparked numerous TV reports.

When the Co-op launched its new report, ’Lie of the Label’, it

generated major newspaper stories and sparked numerous TV reports.

The drive - which calls for a code of practice to ensure the food

industry delivers ’honest’ labelling - was a success for many reasons.

Key consumer editors had the story in time to publish on the day of the

Monday press conference, using the word ’today’ in copy.

The report was backed by the Consumers’ Association and the National

Food Alliance. Both provided third party endorsement, as did the

Government with Food Minister Jeff Rooker and Consumer Affairs Minister

Nigel Griffiths keeping the story on the boil.

’Lie of the Label’ has a clever title and an ingredient usually lacking

in reports - creative verve.

References to seven deadly sins in food labelling and the clever use of

language helped reiterate the core conflict within the story: truth

versus lies, the Co-op versus the rest of the food industry.

Head of food labelling at the Co-op, Wendy Wrigley, was widely quoted

and unchallenged, even with the impractical suggestion: ’All key

information should be on the front of the pack’. As this same report

demands no small print on packaging, God help the pack designers.

A consumer jury to regulate adherence to the code of practice and a new

Co-op labelling complaints service were also reported. The survey

revealing consumer confusion used mock-up packs of made-up brands. While

slightly muddling, this gave journalists pictures to support their


Substantial exposure has been achieved which positions the Co-op as

responsible, consumer-focused and forward-thinking. The Co-op gave the

media a story on a plate and will be rewarded for being ’first in’ on an

important consumer issue.

It will be interesting to see if, as recommended, a code of practice is

introduced, or new legislation, as preferred by the National Food


While the PR campaign was nearly faultless, a combined marketing

initiative could have given consumers a clearer call to action. The news

could have communicated a relaunch of the store’s own label food lines,

along the lines of Fair Foods, or similar, to reflect the retailer’s

ethics. A bad idea? It’s only a serving suggestion.

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