This. Is. Wrong.


Organic has taken a bit of a battering this year . UK sales seem to be down in many sectors: TNS reckon -14% year-on-year. The recession caused many light-green consumers to question the benefits they got from organic purchases and the FSA’s badly designed attack on nutritional benefits did not help. Envious eyes have been cast towards Fairtrade where a single logo, a single message and tightly-targetted promotional activity have continued to generate market growth, with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and KitKat being the latest high profile recruits to the Fairtrade cause. The organic sector has responded by forming the Organic Trade Board ( www.organictradeboard.co.uk ) which is on target to bid for matched EU funds to launch a promotional campaign that will make the case to consumers for organic food and drink ( www.organicuk.org ).

The single logo  challenge is more problematic. Buy organic foods in the UK and you are likely to find any one of half a dozen organic certification logos on pack. Alternatively you might find a non-UK organic logo on the pack , or you might even find no organic logo at all (perfectly legal).

Now the EU have got involved. As of next year every organic line produced in the EU will have to carry a mandatory new organic logo on its label. And because Europe is a collection of democracies we  get a chance to vote for the logo we want, from a selection of three. The only problem is that all three logos are terrible. See for yourself at http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/logo/index_en.htm . I remonstrated with Craig Sams, one of the judges who had selected these three designs from  and he assured me that the other 3,419 had been worse, which frankly is hard to believe. I sought the advice of the head of one of the UK’s most successful design companies and this is his verdict: “All poo. Number Three is fractionally less poo than the other two but all are the equivalent of a big pile of poo on a plate of dung.”

All over the EU companies will be incurring needless expense to add one of these ghastly logos to their labels. Will doing this help consumers recognise and understand organic products more easily? Not one bit.

What can we do? Protest. The Freiburg-based lawyer Hans-Peter Schmidt  recommends that people who oppose the logos state their opinion by writing to the organisers(info@organic-logo-competition.eu) and to the EU ( Mariann.Fischer-Boel@ec.europa.eu). According to Hans-Peter Schmidt, “The three drafts do not fit the purpose. They do not clearly say ‘This is an organic product’. When displayed in a minimal version on the product packaging, one can hardly recognise them.” He recommends that, if you do not agree with any of the drafts, you vote with a NO by sending an email saying “The three organic draft logos put up for a public vote do not communicate that the product is organic. None of the three is distinctive when printed in small scale on packing. I vote NO and reject all three.”.

Please visit the logo website and then send your emails, while the horror of what you have seen is still fresh in your mind. Do it for organic shoppers as yet unborn. You know it makes sense (unlike the organic logos).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon Wright 12.16.09 at 17:48

An email sent by Craig Sams to Leo Frühschütz, editor of the German magazine BioHandel

“I have just been at a meeting with a design agency for Carbon Gold, my
biochar company. We are spending about €40,000 to design a logo and
branding for a product. We have had 3 meetings already, refining details of
design, font, colour and proportions and considering how it would be used in
a variety of different packaging applications, not to mention business
cards, T shirts, advertising, websites and TV. That is what you do for a
small business launch that expects to attain €3 million sales by 2011. The
organic business is worth €10 billion and a very different process was
applied that doesn’t begin to compare in professionalism. Perhaps it’s
because the EU people who decided to go this route don’t have a professional
interest in a successful outcome.

The idea that you can expect art and design students to come up with the
perfect logo is aspirational in the extreme. The ‘jury’ of which I was a
member, was very diverse and, while most had expertise in organic food and
some had expertise in design we did not engage in any creative process –
this had happened already in the bedrooms and classrooms of the people who
submitted the designs.

I went away from the jury session profoundly dismayed and also a little bit
mistrustful. The convener of the jury assured me that it would not be
mandatory for the logo to be on the front of packaging, but the EU has a way
of doing a ‘soft launch’ where something is voluntary (with the old logo
this failed as most people preferred pre-existing symbols), then mandatory
but not necessarily front of pack, then, later on, when the logo is out
there, mandatory on the front of pack. NO doubt there will also be a
minimum size requirement, too.

Space limitations on packaging are always a major concern: so much to say in
so little space and now another logo that must find room between bar codes,
ingredient declarations, nut and milk residue statements etc etc.

Nobody in the organic production or processing industries asked for this
logo and perhaps it shows the importance that DG Agri and the Commission
attach to organic food in their future food policy. Remember that they are
also still trying to impose GM food on us and condone the widespread use of
pesticides and artificial fertilisers that have damaging effects on human
health, on the environment and on climate change. I find it hard to imagine
that they would use a similar process for something that they perceived as
really important

As a jury we did our best – these designs may seem disappointing but your
magazine should publish some of the stuff that we rejected – there were
hundreds of submissions and some were quite unbelievable!”

Simon Wright 12.23.09 at 20:03

Response to my email to the EU:

“Dear Sir,

Thank you for your message and your interest in the EU Organic Logo Competition. The EU organic logo competition team is overwhelmed with the high interest in the online voting and encouraging response from all over Europe since its launch on 7 December. Firstly, the European Commission feels that selecting a new logo in close cooperation with the European public is the right step towards co-decision and stimulation of creativity of young art and design talents in the EU. This view is currently strongly encouraged by the high involvement in the online voting measured against the numbers of votes currently casted on http://www.ec.europa.eu/organic-logo.

The European Commission is well aware that selecting adequate candidates for the future EU organic logo carries with itself special responsibility towards both the European public and the organic farming market.

This is why a panel of juries consisting of four design professionals and four representatives from the organic farming sector was appointed with choosing the greatest logos out of over 3400 design submissions from throughout all European Member States. The jury gathered in July 2009 to debate on the entries and successfully selected ten designs to enter the next competition round. Please find more information on the jury meeting by visiting http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/logo/news/news_en.htm

The logo selections were ranked according to their fulfillment of the pre-defined criteria for entries including: creativity and originality of the logo design, consideration of the diverse aspects of organic food and farming, universal appeal, cleanness of design, clarity of presentation, timelessness, and their comprehensibility without the use of words.

Especially, the last submission criteria carried importance in the selection of the finalists. The aim of finding one single design for 27 EU Member States without textual elements was regarded necessary to make the logo a unique symbol for organic farming which speaks for itself. We would like to remind you that the new EU Organic Logo can be used alongside the national logos which carry the writing in the country’s own languages.
Based on these criteria, a selection of 10 logos representing different design approaches entered into the finale. Afterwards, these ten logos were undertaken a legal copyright check to ensure their originality. This was a very hard procedure as the logos need to be original all over the world not only in Europe. The three finalists are the ones fulfilling these pre-conditions.

We remain at your disposal should you have any further questions.

Kind regards,

Your EU Organic Logo Competition Team”