From win to bin: our 2014 tuna league table

Posted by Ariana Densham — 28 February 2014 at 6:59pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
2014 Tuna League Table

The results are in!

Which tinned tuna brands win, and which ones are fit for the bin? This tinned tuna league table reveals exactly how the tins stack up.

Top of the table: ‘Market leaders’


‘Top tuna supermarket’ - this Special Award goes to Sainsbury's for their 100% pole and line own brand tinned tuna and for having remained at the forefront of tuna sustainability for many years. Today, nearly three quarters of all the tinned tuna Sainsbury's sells in its shops – regardless of brand - is sustainable, more than any other retailer. Sainsbury’s also sources only sustainable tuna for other own brand products such as sandwiches and salads. This is a significant achievement given they are the second largest supermarket in the UK.

Verdict: Ranked number one in 2008 and joint first in 2011, Sainsbury's is in front again because it continues to set the standard on own-brand tuna sustainability.

The Co-operative

Verdict: The Co-operative made excellent progress in meeting its commitments across the board with its own brand tinned tuna 100% pole and line since 2013. It has also phased out unsustainable tuna from other own brand products, such as sandwiches and pasta. The Co-operative joins the other market leaders at the top of the league table.


Verdict: Waitrose continues to be a clear market leader on sustainability with its own-brand tinned tuna. All Waitrose own-brand tinned tuna is 100% pole and line caught as is the tuna contained across its entire range of own-brand products, like sandwiches and pâtés.


‘100% improved’ – this Special Award goes to Morrisons, which has improved the most since 2011.  Back then, only 50% of their own-brand tinned tuna was caught sustainably, now it’s 100%. They have also met their promise to use 100% sustainable tuna in other products, such as in pastas, sandwiches and salads.

Verdict: Morrisons joins the leaders at the top of the league table.

Marks & Spencer

Verdict: Marks & Spencer continues to set the standard on own-brand tuna sustainability. They remain at the top of the league table with their entire range of tinned tuna and tuna products such as sandwiches and salads sourced 100% using pole and line. 

Mid table: ‘Must try harder’


Verdict: Asda has made progress but still has a long way to go. Its own-brand tinned tuna is currently just 50% sustainable – the lowest out of all the supermarkets. However, it has until the end of 2014 to clean up the rest and meet its commitment to go 100% sustainable across both own brand tinned tuna and other products containing tuna such as sandwiches and salads. Asda has also started selling Oriental & Pacific, the new ‘dirty’ brand of tinned tuna.


‘Dodgy dealer’ – this Special Award goes to Tesco who come last out of the supermarkets. Tesco met its commitment to go 100% pole and line in its own brand tinned tuna in 2012, but at the same time as this it started selling a new brand of dodgy tuna called Oriental & Pacific in its stores. Tesco was the first supermarket to start selling this ‘dirty’ tuna to customers again, after all the companies agreed to eliminate it after pressure from our last campaign in 2011.

This undermines Tesco’s commitment to protect the oceans because it’s effectively selling dodgy tuna again just under a different brand. Tesco also remains bottom of the supermarket pile because it is the only supermarket that has no time bound commitment to use sustainable tuna in other products like pastas, sandwiches and salads.

Verdict: Tesco must take Oriental & Pacific off its shelves. It also must set a fair deadline to extend its sustainable tuna sourcing policy to cover own brand products that contain tuna as an ingredient such as sandwiches and salads. It’s not enough to talk the talk, they need to walk the talk.

Bottom of the table – ‘Poor performers’


Verdict: Oh dear. Princes is responsible for around a third of the UK market in tinned tuna, and came second to last in 2008 and last place in 2011. Now Princes is backing out of commitments it made to us in 2011 when it promised it would be using 100% sustainable tuna by the end of 2014.  As a result of our latest tuna survey, Princes Executives promised they still had the ambition to meet their existing target but could not guarantee that they will be able to meet it. Instead of setting a longer deadline, they want to fudge their commitments by introducing different, less ambitious measures which will not have the same marine protection benefits that eliminating unsustainably caught tuna will have. In other words, window dressing “business as usual”.

John West

Verdict: Oh dear, Oh dear. John West is responsible for around a third of the UK tinned tuna market and after finishing last in 2008, and second to last in 2011, they seem to have made zero progress in cleaning up their own-brand now. Even though they had an extremely long deadline to use 100% responsibly caught tuna – end of 2016 - they cannot guarantee that they will even meet this. Furthermore, John West falls further down the league table because it has shareholder links, and supplies, the new brand of ‘dirty’ tuna, Oriental & Pacific, the majority of which is caught unsustainably. Whilst John West supplies much of the sustainable supermarket own-brand tuna, they don’t seem too concerned about their own-brand label – they need to get their house in order.

Oriental & Pacific

‘Dirtiest tuna’ – this special award goes to Oriental & Pacific tuna which is at the bottom of the league table because it is sourced unsustainably and the company which owns it – LDH (La Doria) Ltd - has no commitment at all to clean up the brand. Oriental & Pacific is ‘dirty’ tuna meaning that much, if not all of it, is caught in big nets using Fish Aggregation Devices. These are floating rafts which attract not just the targeted tuna, but other ocean creatures such as sharks, rays and turtles. They are caught and killed along with the tuna when the nets scoop everything out of the water.

Verdict: We think Oriental & Pacific is the most unsustainable tuna on major supermarket shelves in the UK.

About Ariana

I’m Ariana and I’m an campaigner in the Oceans team at Greenpeace UK.  

interested? Follow me on twitter @arianadensham


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