ACM: create a clear label for sustainable Dutch products
The transition to a more sustainable agricultural sector in the Netherlands can only succeed if consumer demand for more-sustainable products increases. To help consumers in their decision-making processes regarding sustainable products, a clear and trustworthy certification label for sustainable products is needed, one that can be used both in supermarkets as well as in hospitality, and that is also recognized in other countries. Through taxes and subsidies, sustainable products can be made more affordable, while making conventional products more expensive. To match supply and demand better, farmers, food processors, wholesalers, supermarkets, and the hospitality industry are allowed to collaborate with each other. These are some of the conclusions of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in its Agro-Nutri Monitor 2022.
Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘We are facing enormous challenges in making the Dutch agricultural sector more sustainable. The recent report by Mr. Remkes about the Dutch agricultural sector’s future also emphasizes this. Collaborations within the supply chain can also further the sustainability transition, and are usually allowed under competition rules. Supermarkets and the hospitality industry play a crucial role here because they directly sell to consumers. In addition, with so many different labels on the market, consumers can’t see the wood for the trees. Having a clear and trustworthy label that is also supported by the government can help.”
Label for sustainable Dutch products
A previous ACM study shows that the current proliferation of sustainability labels causes confusion and uncertainty. As a result, consumers lose confidence in certification labels, including good ones. Having a single, clear, properly-managed, and trustworthy label for more-sustainable products in shops, specialty stores, and hospitality will help consumers. If the added value of the more sustainable product is clearer, consumers are willing to pay more. The export opportunities of sustainable Dutch products will improve if such a certification label is also accepted in other countries.
Making the price difference smaller
ACM believes that the Dutch cabinet should take a serious look at the different options it has to lower the prices of sustainable products. For example, they can do so by lowering VAT on sustainable products. For conventional products, it is important that the adverse environmental effects are incorporated in the price, so that consumers pay the ‘true price’.
Three Agro-Nutri Monitors
In the past three years and at the request of the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), ACM had a study conducted regarding the price-formation process in the food chain for regular and sustainable products, as well as into obstacles to the transition to a more sustainable agricultural sector. The studies were carried out in part by Wageningen Economic Research (WR), on behalf of ACM. The three monitors present a consistent picture. One major obstacle to making the agricultural sector more sustainable is the higher price of sustainable products in comparison with conventional products. As long as the cheaper, conventional products are offered, the consumers’ willingness to pay for a more sustainable product is limited.
Producers that switch to sustainable production methods are compensated for the additional costs for most of the products that were investigated, but it varies per product and per producer. This year, two extra studies were carried out. The first study looked into the consumption of organic products in Denmark. The second study looked at sales strategies that supermarkets use for sustainable products.
ACM and the agricultural sector
ACM keeps a close watch on agricultural markets to ensure that they work well for people and businesses, now and in the future. The Agro-Nutri Monitor offers a clear picture of how these markets function, and what obstacles to a more sustainable future exist. In addition, ACM recently published its Guidelines regarding collaborations between farmers, explaining the collaboration opportunities for the agricultural sector. ACM also published its Guidelines on sustainability claims aimed at protecting consumers against misleading sustainability claims, and at promoting fair competition in this area. Farmers, growers, fishermen, and food processors can report unfair commercial practices to ACM. ACM can then launch investigations on the basis of such reports.
20-10-2022 Letter to the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) Agro-Nutri Monitor 2022 (in Dutch)
20-10-2022 Agro-Nutri Monitor 2022: the price-formation process of foodstuffs, and the reasons to buy organic products
20-10-2022 Sub-study: sales stategies of Dutch supermarkets (in Dutch)
20-10-2022 Case study: organic consumption in Denmark (in Dutch)
11-10-2021 Agro-Nutri Monitor 2021: Monitor of foodstuffs’ prices, and analysis of obstacles to transition to sustainable production (in Dutch)
09-10-2020 ACM: food price monitor offers a first insight into pricing and obstacles for organic production
16-06-2022 ACM calls on Dutch legislature to help consumers find reliable information for making sustainable choices
09-07-2020 Draft guidelines sustainability agreements
07-09-2022 Guidelines regarding collaborations between farmers
28-01-2021 Guidelines sustainability claims