Finnish company the first to add water consumption label to food product

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 17th April 2009

Finnish food group Raisio is the world’s first food company to add an H2O label to product packaging, indicating the total water consumption of the product.

The label was added to Elovena oat flakes, which only a year ago pioneered the CO2 label – highlighting its impact on the environment.

The Elovena H2O label indicates the product’s water footprint throughout the production chain – from the field to the packaged product found in retail outlets. The footprint includes the water that the plant uses for growth, the water used in production, as well as the resulting wastewater. Most of the consumption consists of the water that oats use during the growth period and get from rain water, as a part of the natural water cycle*.

Raisio devised its own calculation model, since no internationally established formula and product labelling exist as yet, they noted. The calculations for primary production are based on evaporation data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s weather observation stations, the water consumed in oat cultivation and the three-year averages for oat crops supplied by Raisio’s contract farmers. Oat flake production and packaging materials jointly account for well under one per cent of the overall water consumption.

Based on their calculations, the total water consumption of Elovena oat flakes is 101 litres per 100 grams of the product. According to the Water Footprint Network, the total water consumption of, for example, one apple (100 g) is around 70 litres, while that of beef is some 1,600 litres per 100 grams of meat.

With consumers around the world showing increasing interest in the impact their consumption habits have on the environment, the company believes the label will be well received.

Matti Rihko, Raisio’s CEO, says the company hopes to receive feedback on the label and the calculation method so that both can be further developed. “If consumers find that the label gives them the information they need for consumption choices, Raisio will add the label to other products as well,” he advised.

Freshwater, that is, water suitable for drinking and cultivation, accounts for only around one per cent of the global water resources. Around 70 per cent of this is used for agriculture.