Britain’s biggest supermarket was at the centre of an unlikely row yesterday after it dropped images of the Saltire from its punnets of strawberries.
Following an outcry from Scottish customers on social media, the retailer’s customer service staff claimed the company had received several complaints from customers in England who had questioned why the St George’s flag did not feature on berries harvested south of the Border.
The removal of the Saltire, it said on Twitter, was redesigned to introduce “British packaging only” in order to “avoid further criticism” from English customers.
Yesterday, however, the firm claimed there had been no such complaints made. It said the decision to replace the Saltire with the Union flag on punnets sold throughout the UK was made on “consistency” grounds.
The explanation did little to stem criticism online. One Twitter user, Eileen Brown, wrote: “Tesco used to mark Scottish produce with saltire (our flag). Now you use Union flag. Please say why. Is it #casualracism?
Another user, Paul Donaldson, tweeted: “As a shareholder, I hope you will be putting the Scottish flag back on packets on strawberries/raspberries if grown in Scotland.”
Despite the change to the labelling, Tesco said its punnets would continue to feature information on where the fruit had been grown.
John Armour, NFU Scotland’s food chain policy manager, said it was important shoppers were able to trace fruit to its point of origin.
When the category went through corporate re-design, it was decided to have British packaging only to avoid further criticismTesco spokesperson
He explained: “Scotland’s hard-working and innovative soft fruit growers are putting more tasty fruit on supermarket shelves than ever before and that is something that we believe consumers across the UK value.
“Scottish soft fruit is very successful and the majority of Scottish soft fruit is sold outside of Scotland. It is important to note that the county of origin and the grower names continue to be clearly displayed on Scottish berries sold in the UK, giving shoppers vital provenance information.”
A spokesman for Tesco said: “To provide consistency for customers, we mark all of our home grown fresh berries with a Union flag. The country of origin is also clearly displayed on the pack.”