Sligro Food Group N.V. encompasses food retail and foodservice companies selling directly and indirectly to the entire Dutch food and beverages market. The group is active in foodservice as a wholesaler and in food retail as a wholesaler and retailer. We operate our own in-house production facilities, making specialised convenience products and fish and patisserie items, while our Fresh Partners associates specialise in meat, game and poultry, fruit and vegetables and bread and bakery products. Food therefore plays a key role in our operations. Some examples of recent developments and choices we have made in discharging our social responsibility are outlined below.
Eerlijk & Heerlijk
Sligro Food Group’s Eerlijk & Heerlijk (literally ‘honest and delicious’) is a sustainably produced range of items built on four main pillars, offering the widest possible selection of ethical products. Eerlijk & Heerlijk represents a socially responsible selection at product level, including both A brands and house brands, in the most sustainable possible packaging. One of the primary objectives is to offer a transparent and easily understood concept that really helps consumers make sustainable choices, not only in our stores when perusing the shelves, but also when making their shopping choices online. These four main pillars – organic, fair trade, sustainable and local – are, where possible, supported by independent quality marks.
Organic products are produced with respect and care for nature, the environment and biodiversity. The quality marks supporting products in this pillar are the Ecolabel and the European Organic and Skal labels.
This pillar is built on the principle of fair trading on internationally agreed terms that respects human rights, nature and the environment. The commodities traded within this pillar do not originate from EU member states. Fair trade contributes to sustainable development and supports the development and rights of producers and workers, chiefly in developing countries. The goal is to facilitate market access, to generate higher sales and to grow income and provide advice and support for the producers of commodities. The labels carried by these products include Fairtrade Max Havelaar and UTZ Certified.
Because sustainability is an extremely broad concept, it is important to define the precise meaning. For the Eerlijk & Heerlijk range, sustainability refers to two aspects – animal welfare and sustainable production processes – and the core values are animal welfare, energy management and environmental protection.
In our definition, local products are items that originate from particular districts in the Netherlands. The district need not necessarily be the district in which the Sligro outlet or EMTÉ store is located. The core values we apply to local products are origin and flavour. In the absence of an independent quality mark for local products, Sligro Food Group has developed a checklist against which compliance with the selection criteria can be measured. If the product meets the requirements of the checklist, a further audit is carried out before the product is finally included in the range.
We plan to launch this range in early 2011, in both the foodservice (Sligro, Van Hoeckel) and food retail (EMTÉ) businesses.
Demand for veal in the catering trade is high and the product is certainly popular. However, many people working in the sector and consumers have somewhat negative associations with the product, largely because of the questions now being raised about the way it is produced.
Sligro responded to these questions in early 2009 by introducing a special veal that is produced in a way that meets the highest standards of animal welfare, sold under the Meierijsche Roem label. The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals also recognises the quality of this veal and has since awarded the brand its Beter Leven (Better Life) quality mark. Specially selected calves are housed in groups in a way that encourages their natural herd instinct. Their carefully designed feeding programme and the closely monitored, individual care they receive help to optimise the conditions in which the calves are reared. The ‘Beter Leven’ quality mark is also a way of adding value for restaurants and other caterers keen to demonstrate the importance they attach to corporate social responsibility in compiling their menus.
Food safety is an important principle for Meierijsche Roem veal. As soon as a calf is born, it is given a unique ID number to which are linked the origin of the feed used, other certification and records of the checks performed, ensuring transparency throughout the production chain. This is guaranteed by the supplier’s Safety Guard food safety programme, which also covers all other quality management systems such as HACCP, BRC and GVP.
Pork from uncastrated boars
We fully support the ambitions of the Noordwijk Declaration signed on 29 November 2007, which inter alia called on all signatories in a responsible manner to end the practice of castrating boars by 2015. Progress has been so swift that we expect to reach this goal well before the target date. From 1 January 2011 at the latest, we shall buy only pork from uncastrated boars.
Label Rouge quality chicken
Sligro has chosen to sell chicken certified to Label Rouge standards. Label Rouge has been a mark of quality in France since the 1960s and is known for the taste of its products and the animal welfare and environmental standards it represents. Label Rouge chickens are allowed to develop slowly in the open air on small-scale poultry farms, where they can wander in and out of the sheds as they please and where they are fed at least 75% grain. The Label Rouge organisation strictly monitors the whole production process, from start to finish. In April 2009, the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals also awarded its Beter Leven (‘Better Life’) status to poultry products certified to Label Rouge standards, while the Label Rouge production process was awarded the maximum three stars. The Society for the Protection of Animals owns the Beter Leven quality mark and is responsible for awarding stars.
Sligro Food Group promotes sustainable fishery and supports a range of active initiatives to achieve that end, and it is not for nothing that our EMTÉ and Golff supermarket formats have been acclaimed for leading the way in promoting sustainable fishery policies (source: Greenpeace).
Eels have been the subject of heated debate since December 2009. It has not been about the low level of wild eel stocks in the Netherlands, on which all are agreed, but about the route to recovery. When a number of supermarket organisations announced they would stop selling eel, in some cases under pressure from NGOs, the Fish Product Board argued that this was completely the wrong way forward, because it could mean the end both of the eel stocks and an entire business sector. The debate is being clouded by differing views on and vested interests in eel stocks, eel farming and fishing. The fact that eel is a traditional Dutch product has also meant the debate attracting considerable attention among the general public. Whatever the case, organised communications by one party with a vested interest should not coerce us into making decisions on purely emotional grounds. That would be regrettable because, given our shared responsibility for the production chain, transparency and rational decision-making are essential, and are more important than individual point scoring.
Eels are at risk of becoming extinct. All the eels on Dutch supermarket shelves and at wholesalers are farmed, not wild. Although stopping selling farmed eel in Dutch supermarkets will have some impact on the market and prices, only a large-scale, international ban on sales will have any significant and visible effect on stocks, as indeed Wageningen University and Research Centre (LEI and IMARES) stated in the report on their analysis of the issue (‘The impact of a potential sales ban for eel on stock and sector’) performed in July 2009 on behalf of the WWF.
Sligro Food Group will obviously comply with any decision by the market to stop selling eel, but we will not do so without making it clear that such a step merely addresses the symptoms rather than dealing with the cause.
‘Sustainable fish on the menu’ workshops
To enable as many operators as possible in the hospitality sector to learn about the campaign to promote sustainable fish and understand the importance of this work, Sligro organised ‘Fish and sustainability’ workshops in conjunction with WWF and KHN (Royal Dutch Hospitality Industry Association). At these workshops, chefs and restaurant staff learned about how to prepare the various species and where they came from. Brochures on sustainable fish were also distributed, together with recipes designed to inspire customers to prepare dishes for their guests with fish caught using the right methods and at the right time of year.
Sustainably produced cocoa
There are threats of shortages of cocoa in the major producing countries and quality is at risk. Many cocoa farmers do not make enough profit and lack the means to improve their production standards. At the same time, consumer demand for guaranteed sustainably produced cocoa is growing. On 4 March 2010, the main players in the Dutch cocoa sector and Ms. Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, signed a declaration of intent that the parties would strive for 100% sustainable cocoa consumption by 2025. The target for 2015 is for 50% of Dutch cocoa consumption to be sustainable. CBL, our sector organisation, co-signed the declaration of intent on behalf of all supermarkets. In anticipation of the declaration of intent, we started to switch to sustainable cocoa for our own-brand product range in 2009. The Easter eggs and chocolate letters we sell under our own Bonbiance label have been awarded UTZ and Fairtrade/Max Havelaar certification, respectively.