The first food product with a water footprint label

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Raisio CEO Matti Rihko  is speaking at our Corporate Water Footprinting conference in December. In this 60-second interview he outlines the details of what is thought to be the first water-footprint label on a food product.

What prompted you undertake the water footprint and label product?

As a pioneer in plant-based, ecological food, and as one of Europe’s most innovative grain companies, Raisio Group is in an extremely good position to answer the new challenges facing the food industry.

During the past years we in Raisio have thought about the motives that are becoming increasingly important to consumers and how to take these factors into consideration when meeting consumer demand. Such key factors include ecology and ethics. Raisio is strongly investing in developing products that comply with consumer needs. Climate change and increasing consumers’ environmental awareness made us realise that it is the time to offer information about our products’ greenhouse gas emissions that the company already had. 

 We have received very positive feedback on adding the CO2 label on consumer products. This feedback encouraged us to expand the labelling and further convinced us that we are on the right track. The H2O label was the natural follow-up step to the CO2 label as we had the information and skills needed to calculate the product’s water footprint.

What did you hope to achieve my determining and publicising the footprint?

We believe that carbon footprint labels will become standard on consumer products. The label will form an integral part of product data in a package to complement the price and nutrition information.

 When launching the CO2 label Raisio wanted to see how consumers react and to get feedback. It was also a kind of risk to add CO2 label to an icon brand that Elovena is in Finland because the single figure looks high without any comparison.

The CO2 label that Raisio introduced has been very well received. Raisio’s actions come as an answer to the quickly strengthening changes in living habits. We firmly believe that people are moving from words to action in order to curb climate change, and the CO2 and H2O labels give them important information in this respect.

Where is the greatest uncertainty in the usage quantity you derived?

Most of the water consumption of Elovena oat flakes, that are H2O labelled, consists of the water that oats use during the growth period and originates from rain water, as a part of the natural water cycle. Since the oat grown in Finland is not irrigated, it does not compete for clean, drinkable water. We wanted to include green water to be able to calculate the total water consumption.

We have asked for feedback to be able to discuss about the water footprint in order to further develop the calculation and labelling. We believe that the water footprint, as a concept, will gain global significance, but it will take years before the related consumer product labelling becomes more common. If consumers find that the H2O label gives them additional information they need for consumption choices, Raisio will enlarge the labelling to other products as well.

What has been the response to the labels from consumers and the industry?

We have received very positive feedback on the labels from experts, consumer organisations and other such sources. The labels have aroused a lot of interest in Finland, and they have also been widely noticed abroad. Footprint labelling is a very young concept in the food industry but awakened consumers awareness about climate change will make footprint label as a standard.

The food industry is more and more aware about environmental impacts caused by food production. Changing consumer demand is encouraging food processors to develop products that are also environmentally friendly.

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