In 2007, the Southern Co-op set up its Local Flavours scheme – and now it works with bakers, brewers, farmers, artisan makers and more to bring a taste of the southern counties to its members and customers.
To mark the anniversary the Southern Co-op Local Flavours VW camper van has been on tour, championing local food and drink at major events in ten of the counties it trades in.
“Sourcing British food matters to us, not just because it contributes to the UK economy and employment, but because it’s important to our customers,” said Mark Smith, Southern Co-op chief executive. “In these uncertain times, it offers reassurance and builds trust in food security and sustainability.”
Southern has seen significant growth in its local food and drink offer, with sales increasing by 79% over a ten year period to reach £5.2m last year. And part of this success is down the popularity of the Local Flavours range. As well as selling only 100% British fresh meat in all its stores, 78 Southern food outlets carry a bespoke Local Flavours range sourced from within the county or bordering counties.
Last year the society added a further 20 suppliers to the range, and after a successful trial with an Isle of Wight bakery, it is now looking for local bakers who can supply stores in their other southern counties. Sales of local craft beers also doubled.
“As an independent regional retailer in southern England, it’s vital that we play a pivotal role in supporting local food producers and the rural economy; this is very much part of our business ethos as a co-operative,” said Kate Hibbert, Southern Co-op local sourcing manager.
“We build great relationships with passionate suppliers, helping them to develop their business skills to get their products from field to fork, while strengthening co-operation across our supply base to share good practice and ideas. Looking ahead, we will continue to grow this side of our business and it’s clear that in my role as local sourcing manager, I’m going to be busier than ever!”