Last May Greenpeace launched an initiative in France (kindly presented as a contest) to measure the pesticide content of fruit and vegetable products sold by major retail chains.
This initiative is already underway in Germany and has had profound implications in the supply policies of German supermarkets, leading them to be the most demanding and restrictive in Europe.
Let’s say that if it is a contest, it is a contest without prizes. It is a contest where what is distributed is discredited. German retailers are well aware of this. Some of them have been badly damaged by the publication of this annual ranking.
Generally, in Germany, all chains complied with the law (maximum residue limit -MRL) but being located at the bottom of the table has had a devastating effect on consumer perception (especially if the chain in question had a Premium image).
I can imagine what might have happened in the headquarters of the French chains at this time. Total Panic Time! Especially for senior management that sees the implications of the change of rules imposed by the Greenpeace ranking (it is no longer enough to comply with the law):
– Let’s see … call the quality man… What was his name? (Congratulations Monsieur Qualité. From now on you will become someone important and everyone will know your name)
– Make us a report, NOW! I want to know how we are doing and how our competition is doing. (But of course, Monsieur Qualité, this great responsibility requires a lot of work and resources)
– What do you mean we only have 3 product analyses in the whole year!!!! I want you to check all suppliers NOW! When did you say Greenpeace starts collecting data? (Monsieur Qualité, you choose the suppliers now. The purchasing department will present them and you decide.)
This is a new world. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are beginning to have more influence and credibility than politicians, the traditional press and, of course, supermarkets.
But the implications of this Greenpeace Ranking (and other initiatives such as Behind the Brands – Oxfam) being so important, this is only the friendly face of a citizen activism that is developing schools of opinion and market trends that are uncontrollable by members of the food business.
In the US this year, “out of the blue”, a single blogger (and with only the help of her Blog: Foodbabe.com) has put all kinds of food products, distribution chains and food chains food from all over the country up against the ropes.
At first, Vani Hari (as she is called) was treated with disdain and a campaign was launched by the food industry and the North American media establishment to discredit her because of the scarce scientific content of her statements and reports (which is true). But this, ironically, has done nothing but increase her influence on consumers.
She has been featured in numerous publications, has published a book (The Food Babe Way), her blog is one of the most visited in the country; she gives lectures, seminars and has begun to “approve” certain companies and products of her choice.
If a Vani Hari shows up in Europe or Spain (which she will), I want to be her friend … just in case!