East of England Co-operative has won a national award for its commitment to local food sourcing. The society, the largest independent retailer in East Anglia, was named the winner of the Supply Chain Sourcing Initiative of the Year Award.
The national Hermes and Retail Supply Chain awards were designed to recognise excellence in all areas of the retail supply chain industry. East of England received the accolade for its Sourced Locally initiative, which provides shoppers with fresh, local products from local producers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
Roger Grosvenor, retail executive officer at East of England, said: “We are enormously proud of our Sourced Locally initiative and we are delighted that it has been recognised at a national level, especially at a ceremony filled with some of the nation’s top retailers.”
Local and fresh manager Kevin Warden added that the aim of Sourced Locally was to ensure the society could offer truly local produce and fresh food that “hasn’t travelled around the country to packaging and distribution centres, or been subject to extensive refrigeration”.
He said: “We work with more than 140 suppliers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to ensure they can deliver their products direct to stores in their community. This means we can have products such as fresh fruit and vegetables on our shelves the same day as they’ve been picked from local fields.
“More than three quarters of our suppliers have confirmed that this has had a positive impact on their financial performance, and almost three in five said it has helped them to secure local jobs. It also continues to benefit our own business, and our members who share in our profits, as we saw a 30% increase in Sourced Locally sales last year. ”
With a record number of entries received this year, the judges at the Hermes and retail Week Supply Chain awards decided East of England would get the prize due to the benefits Sourced Locally had brought not just to the retailer, but also to customers, the local community and the regional economy.
John Lewis, the employee-owned enterprise that operates department stores and Waitrose supermarkets won in the iForce Distribution & Warehouse Initiative of the Year category.
East of England Co-operative has received other awards this year. The society won the national Dairy Crest Rural Action Award in the Responsible Business Awards and the East Anglian Daily Times Award for Food and Farming Excellence. And it could win another prize on 23 October at the British Farming Awards, where it is shortlisted for Farming Partnership of the Year.