For the first time, Swiss supermarkets have been rated according to how environmentally and animal-friendly their food products are. Top of the charts is Coop.This content was published on February 7, 2006 - 19:09
A close second was rival Migros, the country's largest supermarket chain, in the survey conducted by conservation organisation, WWF Switzerland, and Vier Pfoten, the animal protection body.
The ratings, published on Tuesday, used 65 criteria from the fields of ecology, animal welfare and social justice to evaluate produce and corporate behaviour in the six chains participating in the scheme.
On the product side, this included whether the chain offered organic product ranges, and if a certain percentage of all shelf goods were produced according to ecological standards.
As for the company, questions were asked about how socially minded the corporate culture was, covering issues such as maternity leave or whether employees had a collective labour contract.
And the winner is...
The participants were given a mark ranging from one to five for their performance in certain categories.
Coop, which is the country's second largest supermarket retailer, scored 3.7 overall and was congratulated on its performance, especially on its broad product palette.
Between 40 and 60 per cent of its entire food range fulfilled ecological standards as set by a number of regulating organisations. Nearly all products were available in an organic version.
Felix Wehrle, head of communications at Coop, told swissinfo that the company realised a long time ago that there was a market in such food products.
"We realised this in 1993. Cheap products could not be our future and there are enough people in Switzerland who can afford to pay for quality," he said.
Wehrle added that 50 per cent of the population buy Fair Trade or organic products from Coop.
However, that did not stop the company from introducing its cut-price Prix Garantie label last year. "We had to because we didn't want to lose customers to the likes of [Swiss discounter] Denner," Wehrle said.
He stressed that the strategy had worked, with people often buying products from both lines.
Narrowly pipped to the number-one position was Migros with 3.5, which was commended for its corporate performance. Its product range was also praised.
Dieter Bürgi, Migros' head of ecology, told swissinfo that the company bore no grudges against the overall winner.
"We congratulate Coop on their achievement but it was a photo finish... in money terms and our Engagement product line, we are the market leader," he said.
In third place was Volg, stores of which are found in 640 Swiss villages, whose strength lay in animal welfare. The survey commended the fact that there were no eggs from battery hens on sale.
Winners walked away with a wicker basket containing goodies from their own shelves.
The organisations behind the ratings hope the exercise will be repeated in two years' time, after stressing that all participants still had room for improvement.
swissinfo, Faryal Mirza
Nine of Switzerland's largest supermarket chains were invited to participate in the survey.
However, three – Spar, Aldi and Denner – refused to participate.
Their refusal meant that they came bottom of the list.
WWF Switzerland and Vier Pfoten stressed that chains could not be rewarded for not being transparent about their produce and working practices.
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