Heart of England hails success of its new local produce scheme

The retail co-op is stocking more than 350 products through its new Local@Heart initiative

A scheme launched by Heart of England Co-op to support local producers by selling their goods from its stores has more than 350 different products from local suppliers flying off the shelves.

Local@Heart stocks wide range of local fresh, frozen, chilled and ambient products in the society’s 35 food outlets and is an initiative which is already proving to be popular with sales projected to double by the end of the year.

Although only recently given a real presence in stores, Local@Heart has garnered interest from many suppliers, says the co-op.

The vast majority of suppliers are from the society’s trading area of Coventry, Warwickshire, west Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, with others coming from nearby counties.

Food from the Local@Heart range on display

Products range from cakes to sausages and from flowers to beers, wines and spirits.

There are already 12 local suppliers in the fresh products category and 10 ambient suppliers with a range of more than 30 different lines.

Rob Mackay, category manager for fresh food, frozen food and food to go at the society, said talks with most suppliers had been under way last year, with plans to implement the scheme later this year.

But with the unexpected shutdown of the hospitality sector due to Covid-19 the project was fast-tracked to help safeguard local businesses and also expand the choice for shoppers.

Rob said: “People have become increasingly more conscious of buying local so there is always a need for locally produced goods.

“However as a result of the pandemic our suppliers had an urgent need so we fast-tracked partnerships to provide  them with an outlet to sell their produce.

“In part we have helped to protect some companies and their employees and we are proud of that. It is what our business is all about and  is an integral  part of our ethos.”

Local producers signed up to the scheme so far include John Dwyer Bakery in Rugby; Henley Ice Cream in Henley-In-Arden; Box Tree Flowers in Hockley Heath – where the society opened its newest store earlier this year – and Fatherson’s Bakery in Alcester, near Stratford-upon-Avon.
On the ambient side thesociety is working with Dhillons Brewery in Coventry and Hogan’s Cider, also in Alcester.

Other ambient suppliers in nearby counties include Everard’s Brewery in Leicestershire, Just Crisps and Just Oils in in Worcestershire, Mr Trotter’s pork scratchings in Staffordshire and Ludlow Nut Company in Shropshire.

Phil Moore, ambient category manager at the society, said: “We are looking to champion as many local producers as we can. There are so many benefits – environmental as we cut down on our use of transportation, giving the customers more choice and meeting their needs as they become more conscious of looking to shop local, and of course the benefit to the businesses themselves.

“We want a variety of products from local manufacturers or suppliers. It might be you can supply one product. It might be you can supply 10. Or it may be you can serve a couple of our stores or you may be able to serve more. There is no right or wrong in terms of how much you can do because as Local@Heart grows arms and legs we are looking to work with as many suppliers as possible across the area.”

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