I had some extra time today, so I decided to go to Woolworths Food at Gateway in KZN to stock up on some fresh vegetables and fruit. After searching for a while, I asked a nearby Woolworths employee if he could assist me by finding the organic vegetables. He walked with me through the whole vegetable and fruit area and searched for organic items. Finally we found one. Organic peeled and cubed organic butternut. He showed me the green "organic" label on the front of the packaging. We both checked all the shelves again and indeed, butternut was the only organic product.
I noticed that the packaging did not seem to have any organic certification and I asked him about this. He said that if it is labelled with the green "organic" mark then it is organic. It is my understanding that even if it is labelled organic, but not certified, then it is not organic. End of story. I am prepared to pay a bit extra for organic fresh food, but then, I want it legitimately certified as organic and it is my expectation that Woolworths should do this. My new friend in the fruit and veg area at Woolworths kindly went to the back to check about the organic certification and came back saying that "my boss says it is on the Woolworths website". Other than some advertising copy saying "we are committed to expanding our organic ranges to help make it easier for our customers to lead an organic lifestyle" I could not find an actual certificate of any kind on the Woolworths website.
The very kind and patient employee sensed that I was somewhat disappointed about only finding organic butternut so he took me and proudly showed me the "green wall". Its impressive array of picture perfect lettuce heads, equally sized baby carrots, neat rows of perfect spring onions tied up in bunches with brown raffia and even some heritage vegetables like turnips - all set against a backdrop of farm-like wooden crates and handwritten stick labels - screamed healthy, farm-fresh nutritious produce. That's the marketing anyway. It looks gorgeous, but the origins, genetic modification, pesticide content and forced growing techniques that have taken place to create this fraudulent masterpiece are unclear. I want to know where my vegetables come from and if they are organic or not. Consumers are not stupid and all the "green wall" marketing in the world is not going to sway us... well me anyway. In fact, I kind of thought that Woolworths, of all grocery suppliers, would be taking the lead on supplying wholesome, trusted organic food. Real organic food. Certified organic food. I am disappointed with Woolworths attempts at greenwashing. I expect this company to do the right and trustworthy thing by delivering the real deal. I am disappointed it is not.
I do hope that Woolworths is indeed expanding its organic fresh food range beyond butternut and that we as consumers can be assured that when we buy organic food from Woolworths that is certified.
I love shopping at Woolies. I want to continue shopping at Woolies. I would not have gone to the trouble of writing to you if I wasn't concerned. Please do right by your consumers, Woolies! I want to continue my life-long relationship with my beloved Woolies!
The organic movement is not a fad to be addressed with marketing. It is a global war and I expect Woolworths to be completely up to date with developing trends in the global food market.
Unless it is labelled as "organic Certified" it is not organic.
Organic certification in South Africa is unclear and lies in the hands of a few agencies each with their own regulations.
Packaging things in green with handwriting-like print does not make them organic or any healthier than their non-green packaged printed counterparts.
Green walls and (too) perfect looking vegetables and fruit do not fool us.
I am disappointed in Woolworths attempts to greenwash rather than taking a stance for its consumers and taking the lead in supplying true organic produce in South Africa
Fairtrade products are not necessarily organic
Woolworths packaging, using words such as "Free Range" is misleading.