Davenport direct

02 May, 2008

Will consumers follow Tesco's footsteps into carbon awareness?

The green agenda has come a long way since Swampy crawled out of the tunnels he squatted in protest at plans to build the Newbury bypass. Twelve years on, cars are chugging along the controversial road which sparked the largest protests of their kind in Europe and, according to Wikipedia, Swampy's living in a yurt, with his partner and kids in a field in Wales. Whether or not his new life involves popping down to Tesco to buy a loaf of sliced rye, we'll never know, but like any environmentalist I've met, he might well be partial to the odd glass of red.

Over the years, some consumers have become accustomed to making ethical choices about the drinks they buy - Fairtrade and organics are nothing new, and a few have perhaps wrestled open a Tetra Pak carton. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess as to how much the vast majority want to know about the impact producing their favourite brand is having.

But there are a number of factors which suggest their thirst for knowledge might increase. Figures released at last week's Wine & Spirit Trade Association conference showed that 20-25% of packaging waste is generated by goods from the BWS aisles, a fact shoppers haven't yet questioned (probably because they assume it's possible to recycle all those bottles, when it isn't). As Tesco goes live with its carbon labelling trial across a handful of products, it will be interesting to see if customers begin to ask about the footprint of their favourite Aussie Shiraz when they know what it is for a bag of potatoes.

Having already talked about its ambitions to reduce emissions in the supply chain, Tesco's Dan Jago says he is waiting to see how customers react. By putting Europe's first carbon-neutral beer in the drinks aisles it might be accelerating shoppers' thinking and could again find itself at the forefront of a retailer trend. Arm-chair sales surge

Anecdotally, April seems to have been one of the toughest months of the year so far for drinks sales among a number of the big retailers. After last year's unexpectedly sunny April, figures were almost certainly not going to look as healthy, but even with adjustments, some have voiced concerns.

With signs that life is getting tougher on the high street, it's interesting to see that online drinks sales are motoring. The latest data reveals that they surged by 60% in February and March alone to £700 million. The fact most of these shoppers are said to be silver surfers, previously the biggest techno-phobes of all, proves how ripe sites are for innovation. One London merchant is even using webcasts to hand-sell wines to customers sitting in the comfort of their homes.




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