Aldi buying director said working together with suppliers to let them invest in their business was the key to getting the best value for customers.
Working with suppliers and backing British produce was the way to get the best value product for customers, not squeezing them.
That was the message from Aldi Buying Director Katie Morris as she announced Aldi as the first retailer to sign the NFU’s plants and flowers pledge last Friday (June 22).
She said they had to be the best value on the market, but value without quality was ‘not what we do’.
“If you have a long term deal you have got people investing on every level for your product and then you can get the best costs,” she said.
“I think the best costs are not achieved through squeezing or just asking, it is by working together.”
It comes after Asda chief executive Roger Burnley dodged making a commitment to source British produce first while being grilled by MPs on the proposed merger with Sainsbury’s last week, stating they wanted to source British where they could but offer their customers value.
She said it was important for suppliers they were seen to be doing it, as they could ‘raise the bar’ across the whole industry.
Aldi was also the first retailer to sign up to the NFU’s fruit and veg pledge in 2012, which now has four major supermarkets signed up.
“We think it has had an impact on quality and availability of the product we sell.
“If you are telling the grower put it in the ground within a reasonable amount of time obviously you are going to get a better product.”
Around half of all Aldi produce from UK suppliers, including 100 per cent fresh meat, milk and eggs and 63 per cent of plants. She said she had a ‘personal remit’ to increase this.
“Last summer 25 per cent of all my flowers were British. This year it is going to be 38 per cent and I want to increase it again next year."
She added Aldi was committed to showcasing it was a ‘fully British’ business, not a German one, and that could only be done through the sourcing.
“It is a fully British business and honestly, you need to be offering British customers what they want which is British products.”
Gill Hodgson, founder of Flowers on the Farm, said farmers were diversifying into flowers.
“Certainly more people are doing it,” she said,
“Many are looking at about half to one acre. It is relatively small but a significant part of their income.”
She added it was positive to raise awareness, with many people unaware the flowers they bought were imported and British flowers were not just available in the summer.
Grower Charmay Prout at Lovania Nurseries has been working with Aldi since they first opened in the UK and said many of the principles in the pledge were things Aldi were already doing.
Longer contracts have also helped the growers to become experts in the plants which would otherwise been imported from Holland, improving quality and shelf life year on year.
Ms Prout said the pledge was especially welcome after the Government decided not to include the sector in the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).
“It delivers the best results not only for us as a grower and Aldi as a retailer but for the end customer,” she said.