Mainstream retailing does not always mean conventional. Morrisons Local Foodmakers Programme is working with producers to make each store reflect the bounty of its local area. Jez Fredenburgh reports.
Shopping with a big retailer should not mean consumers miss out on great products produced locally, says Darren Smith, senior local sourcing manager at Morrisons.
He says: “Shoppers should be able to support local food producers, even if they are shopping with a national retailer.
We want people to walk into Morrisons and feel they are in a local store serving the local community.” Driving this is the Local Foodmakers programme, launched back in 2017, which has seen the retailer list 1,167 new products from 240 local suppliers.
Darren says: “There are so many products with strong local heritage and provenance that our customers love to see us selling.
We also continue to discover the next generation of local foodmakers who are at the forefront of local sourcing, sustainability and innovation in the food and drink they are producing.”
To find suppliers, Morrisons invites local producers to an event in their community along with 200-300 customers who try their products and provide feedback.
“Our local buying managers are there to talk to producers about their business,” says Darren.
“Sometimes they’re not ready to supply a retailer, but that is where we act as mentors, by providing advice such as on accreditation and packaging.” Since lockdown, Morrisons has reached out to some of these suppliers who have lost their hospitality market, providing a lifeline for many.
Darren says: “We have been able to accelerate relationships and offset their losses through listings.
“We have also reduced payment terms for suppliers from 30 days to immediate payment to help them with cashflow.”
Farmer-suppliers whose products are now listed as a result of the Local Foodmakers Programme include Cheshire-based Clotton Hall Farm, from which the clotted cream is outselling national brands it sits alongside, and Norfolk grower Andy Allen’s asparagus, which has outstripped sales of bunches from further afield.
Dartmoor Farmers Association, a co-operative of 95 farmers, supplies beef and lamb into 43 Morrisons stores in the south west of England, with plans to launch pies into stores soon.
But local products in Morrisons stores also include beers, oils, cheeses and other meat and seasonal produce.
Justin Lennox, local solutions buying manager at Morrisons, says local food provenance is more robust than ever and welcomes the quality and variety being developed.
He says: “There are more interesting product innovations from farmers and local foodmakers than I ever saw working with blue-chip companies.
That’s where the real innovation is right now.
Farm diversifications have always been there to a degree, but I guess it has never been as important as now.”
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