Want to be a green shopper? Then make sure to buy Irish
Do you remember the Guaranteed Irish logo that seemed to be everywhere in the '70s and '80s? It was easily one of the most recognised logos in the country.
The scheme was established by the Irish Goods Council in 1975 but in 1982 the European Court ruled against the operation of a scheme by a State-funded agency.
Two years later an independent company was formed to run the scheme but it wasn't long before the logo slipped under the radar and out of our consciousness. But now it's back. And in addition a new player, Love Irish Food, has also entered the fray to get us to buy Irish brands.
But do we actually want to buy Irish? Research shows that the answer is a definite yes. A new report by the all-Ireland food safety agency Safefood showed that 54pc of people are concerned about imported foods from non-EU countries and 43pc are worried about food from within the EU.
These reported concerns are about poor regulations and the standards of food production. But Love Irish Food's own research shows that 86pc of those surveyed agreed that buying Irish will help economic recovery.
"These logos are serious business initiatives," says Caroline Byrne, Editor of Shelf Life magazine. "There is a general decline in retail share and brands need to protect their patch. Irish consumers are interested in Irish products but are confused as to what is Irish. Having a logo can help them identify Irish products and make an informed decision."
Guaranteed Irish has more than 1,000 member companies and their membership is growing. All sectors are represented, across food, products and services, from Brennans Bread and Odlums to Pfizer, Dulux and Pigsback.com.
Newcomer Love Irish Foods provides a logo for food brands only. Launched in September, 49 brands have signed up so far. Love Irish Foods say they apply a tougher criteria for members than Guaranteed Irish, because they insist that 80pc of the product has to be manufactured in this country.
For example, Cadbury's Time Out, Flake, Twirl and Dairy Milk all fit the bill because they are made in Dublin's Coolock, while Avonmore's milk, soup and cheese are also included.
To promote the new logo, many supermarkets have special offers, such as SuperValu selling a two-litre twin pack of Club Orange for €3 and you can buy two litres of Ballygowan for 95c in all stores during October.
Love Irish Foods will also be offering money-off coupons on its website so it's worth paying attention. So when you're choosing branded products, you now know what to look for. But what about supermarket own-brand foods, how do you know if they are Irish or not?
You can look out for the Bord Bia quality mark on meat, poultry products, fruit and vegetables. Starting this month, you can also begin looking out for a new quality mark on dairy products from the National Dairy Council (NDC).
"The logo will clearly identify what milk or cream products have been both farmed and processed here in the Republic of Ireland," says NDC Chief Executive Helen Brophy. She adds that 4,676 Irish jobs are supported by buying products that carry their logo.
According to Tesco all of its fresh beef, lamb, pork and chicken are Irish, while its beef, pork and chicken are part of Bord Bia's Quality Assurance Scheme. The supermarket chains plans to have its dairy products included in the new National Dairy Council scheme. You can also look out for the 'Buy me, I'm Irish' signs on packaging and shelves in its shops.
Superquinn says its fresh meat and pre-packed fruit and vegetables bear the Bord Bia quality mark, and over 80pc of its fresh foods is sourced in Ireland.
Superquinn's seafood counters are fully approved members of Bord Iascaigh Mhara's 'Seafood Circle' initiative, and over 80pc of the fish bought by the supermarket is caught in our waters and lands in Irish ports. It also has its own logo, 'Love the taste of Ireland'.
In Aldi, fresh meat, poultry products, bread, water, flour and many teas, coffees, soft drinks and snacks come from "leading Irish suppliers". Aldi's Nature's Isle fresh poultry, beef, pork and eggs are certified under the Bord Bia Assurance scheme. Its brands also display the chain's own 'Produced in Ireland' logo.
Lidl says that all its Irish sourced products are clearly marked 'Irish' and that it "stocks a wide range of locally sourced products including fresh meat and poultry". Its fresh beef and chicken also carry the Bord Bia quality mark.
Shelf Life's Caroline Byrne admits that with many different logos on our shelves, they do "run the risk of confusing consumers.
"Time will tell," she says, "but when retailers work with the schemes it can be great for Irish business and consumers alike".