Midcounties Co-op was the first supermarket to make it mandatory for suppliers to prove and publish where they source their ingredients from
Midcounties Co-op in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, was requiring every food and drink brand across its entire ‘Best of our Counties’ range to have its ingredient supply chain audited and published.
The majority of the supplier had now been accredited and the supermarket was actively working with the remaining suppliers to get them through the accreditation.
It marks a major milestone for Happerley, an organisation working to secure transparency through the supply chain.
Last year, Farmers Guardian reporters Abi Kay and Alex Black undertook the Live Happerley challenge to only eat food they could trace back to farm for one week.
Happerley QR codes will be available at point of sale, and shoppers will be able to use an app on their smartphone to scan the code and reveal the provenance of the product.
The scheme will then be rolled out across hundreds of stores and Happerley chief executive Matthew Rymer said they were also in talks with other retailers.
But Mr Rymer said there were both small and large businesses who would prefer to have their products delisted than reveal the details.
He gave the example of a business which was selling Hereford steaks which were seemingly sourced locally. But it turned out he was buying from a local butcher, who was sourcing Hereford steaks from Australia.
“There are butchers trading on being a local butcher but all the meat is foreign. You move into retail and a brand might talk about being handmade or in a particular region,” he said.
“You talk to them and they say ’to be honest none of our ingredients are British. I would rather be delisted than reveal where the ingredients are from’.”
He said consumers were increasingly interested in where their food came from.
But they were powerless to tell the difference between a company such as William Chase, making vodka and gin from its own potatoes, and a company ‘provenance cheating’.
He said companies could be clever with branding and marketing, making it difficult for consumers to know the difference between the two products.
Companies with transparent supply chains were being disadvantaged by those branding to look local or premium, but using imported ingredients.
And Happerley was not looking to tell people what they should be buying but it was traceable for consumers to make decisions.
The scheme also works with some imported produce having recently taken on a coffee brand where it could trace it back to the farmers who grew it.
There were also future opportunities in exports, with foreign consumers wanting to link back to the story behind premium British produce.
He gave the example of a cheese processor who had returned from the Far East looking to export into that market.
“Buyers asked is there anything you can put on that packaging that will connect back to the dairy farm.”
Mr Rhymer added consumers loved the story of the British countryside and this could be an opportunity to add provenance and value in export markets.