How sustainable are your groceries? Dutch supermarkets flake on sustainability promises

The Netherlands is all green innovation and windmills, right? Although the country generally scores high on overall sustainability rankings, new research shows that Dutch supermarkets are not implementing their sustainability goals.

The Questionmark foundation is an independent research institution that investigates supermarkets in the Netherlands. Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Lidl, Aldi, Plus, Dirk, Coop, and Ekoplaza were all part of the round-up in their latest half-yearly publication. The results were…disappointing, to say the least.

Falling short on promises

Dutch supermarkets have promised to make eco-friendly grocery shopping easier for consumers. This includes offering more organic food, using less plastic packaging, promoting less red meat, and paying more attention to where their products come from.

However, RTL Nieuws reports that things which the supermarkets promised to do aren’t being implemented.

In fact, only Ecoplaza and Albert Heijn seem to be on the right track. Ecoplaza gets credit for having very little meat in its brochures, while Albert Heijn is acknowledged for its transparency about the origin of its products. Albert Heijn is also celebrated as one of the only supermarkets which “provides important insights into the origin and sale of (un)sustainable products.” 

READ MORE | The ultimate guide to the cheapest supermarkets in the Netherlands

Sustainability sinner: red meat

We get it, who doesn’t love a good steak? Summer BBQs are finally be around the corner, but if you were planning on having a steak, then you might want to consider this: red meat has the biggest ecological footprint of all animal products.

Therefore, the Questionmark foundation would like to see less meat advertised by the supermarkets. However, supermarkets promote red meat in 92% of their advertising brochures. 😬

Getting rid of discounts?!

Dutchies want to eat less meat but they also love a good bargain. Seeing red meat in the supermarket discount is therefore not helpful in the quest to consume fewer animal products.

According to Rob van Tilburg from Nature and Environment, “we challenge supermarkets to make a more plant-based diet the new normal. Concrete goals and stopping stunt prices for meat are the first steps.” He believes that supermarkets should take more responsibility for the choices they offer consumers.

Where’s the results?

In 2019, Dutch supermarkets promised to use less plastic packaging. However, only seven or eight actually made any effort towards fulfilling this promise.

According to RTL Nieuws, Albert Heijn is the only supermarket that provides concrete numbers about its use of plastic packaging. The supermarket giant can brag of having reduced its plastic use by almost 7% over the last few years.

Response from the Dutch association of supermarkets

The association agrees that it’s necessary to make a transition towards a more sustainable food supply. It emphasises that “significant steps” have been taken over the past years to make the food chain more sustainable. The association “does not recognize itself” in the claims about insufficient promotion of sustainable grocery shopping.

What do you think about the sustainability of Dutch supermarkets? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Anna Shvets/Pexels

Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
A Dane with a special place in her heart for Minnesota, Christine is now falling in love with everything Dutch. Between finishing her bachelor’s degree, learning Dutch, and doing yoga teacher training, you will find her wandering about the Hague. Always up for visiting new places, she loves to explore the Netherlands with friends and takes pride in scoping out cute cafés (wherein to discuss books, big plans, and food).


  1. As long as the products being sold are what they are warranted to be, why should the government be involved in the Food Business? I’m a vegetarian and don’t eat meat, but if my neighbor wants to eat cow flesh or a pig’s snout what is it to me? Answer, none of my business. – As far as plastic bags and packaging, the answer is simple; If you don’t want to use/buy them, Don’t! Of course this means the tree-huggers and other do-gooders wouldn’t have anything left to bitch about. Maybe they would do well to keep their noses out of other people’s affairs. Unless what they want is a fascist government like under Joe Stalin which I rather suspect many of these types would love to see here in The Netherlands.


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