For a girl like me, indulgence means spending a little extra and buying selected brands to ensure I get the best quality ingredients possible. You may remember my article a while back where I was a shocked to discover that the makers of indulgent chocolate puds, Gü, only use free-range eggs in 3 of their 29 products. Most people I know view Gü as a premium brand which is priced accordingly and share my surprise at Gü are not using better quality eggs in their products. Since my discovery I have found out that Gü are actually owned by an egg company called Noble Foods that describe themselves as the “Progressive face of the UK egg industry”. Progressive indeed, just not progressive enough, as yet.
“Gü-gate” (as I like to call it) made me realise that I had fallen victim to the oldest trick in the book, the slick marketing campaign. Designed to entice you into purchasing their products using seductive imagery and ‘adult’ marketing (Gü’s words, not mine) believing you are buying into something exclusive and luxurious. I was reeled in, hook, line and stinking sinker and made to believe that I was getting the best ingredients for my money when that is not really the case. In protest, I am boycotting all Gü and Frü products until such time that their entire range is made using only free-range eggs. So for now, I shall have to get my chocolate pudding fixes elsewhere as the Managing Director of Gü, Mike Hodgson, has basically REFUSED to provide any glimmer of hope of them switching to free range eggs within the next few years saying (and I quote:) "Broader industry challenges affect companies like Gü, however we are simply not in a position right now to reveal specific business plans or timing." - Basically translating to the fact they have NO immediate plans to make any changes to their ingredient use.
So knowledge isn’t always power; and in this instance, knowledge seems to have turned me into a paranoid, ingredient-obsessed, label-checker, searching for the magical words ‘free’ and ‘range’ somewhere (anywhere!) on the packaging of my favourite foods. But it has got me thinking about other premium brands and whether or not they are really giving us that extra bit of quality that we are paying for or if it is all just a clever illusion.
Supermarkets have improved policies when it comes to using free-range eggs. M&S and Waitrose still lead the way with ensuring their own brands use only free-range eggs, although Waitrose continue to stock Gü and other products that do not use free-range eggs. Sainsburys have also made the commitment to no longer sell battery eggs and their ‘Taste the difference’ products are made exclusively using free-range eggs. But disappointingly Tesco continue to sell battery eggs and when I made enquiries about the eggs used in their ‘Finest’ range uses, I was told: “The majority of the Tesco Finest products use free-range eggs…” So should they really call the entire range ‘Finest’ if some products don’t even use free-range eggs?
I go on to discover bakery and patisserie retailers Paul UK and Maison Blanc are also not using free range eggs in many of their products. With Maison Blanc, started by Chef Raymond Blanc in 1981, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect them to use the best quality ingredients and Paul UK are not much better and aren’t using free range eggs in their bakery or patisserie, which at those prices simply isn’t good enough. Clever marketing is clouding our judgement and making us believe that when we spend more money, we get better ingredients when this clearly isn’t always the case.
But how are we supposed to know if certain products contain free range eggs? There is no information available whatsoever on Gü’s website (http://www.gupuds.com/) regarding the kind of eggs they use and after several emails to their customer service officer, Gü declined to tell me which kind of eggs they use, instead suggesting I meet their Managing Director to discuss the matter further. Is this how far we need to go to get answers? Do we have to meet with every Managing Director of every company in order to get a straight answer to a simple question?
Premium brands should be making a commitment to change to free-range. Both Gü and Tesco were quick to say that they are looking at making these changes, but that won’t happen overnight. So how long before we can expect these changes take place? How do we know what work is being done by these companies in a bid to go free range and how much of a priority the issue is? When companies like Gü aren’t particularly forthcoming about their eggs, what else could be withheld from us? Conversations with the Food Standards Agency, Trading Standards and the Consumer Trade Commission revealed that companies such as Gü have every right to withhold details of the ingredients used, as long as they never claim to use something that they are not. So basically they don’t have to tell us anything and as long as we don’t put pressure on them, nothing will change.
Getting answers won’t be easy but we should question the food we eat and what it contains. If you don’t make something yourself, you can never be 100% certain of the ingredients used to produce it. We need to become a little more inquisitive and vigilant when choosing products to ensure they meet our expectations. Whether quality or cruelty is your main concern or if you are just fed up with the lack of transparency of brands claiming to contain ‘only the best ingredients’, we need to put pressure on them and demand better quality ingredients, such as free-range eggs and demand that they be more upfront about their ingredient use.
Would you like to see more honest labelling and transparency from leading premium brands like Gü? If you discover that a premium product you enjoy does not use free range eggs, how likely are you to continue purchasing it? Would you expect free range eggs when you pay a little more for a product?
To contact Gü to voice your disatisfaction at their use of battery eggs, please contact:
Laura Bowyer - Customer Care Manager
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel: 020 7605 0064