East of England Co-operative is celebrating its successful partnership with local suppliers with a fortnight of events.
Sourced Locally Fortnight, which took place 1-14 June, gave a fresh boost to the scheme, which sees the society work with more than 140 supplier partners. Overall, it offers more than 2,750 products, with new additions introduced on a monthly basis.
The society has put over £34m back into the local economies that surround its 200 branches across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
Sales of £14.6m were achieved last year, with more than £9m returned in payments to its supplier partners.
The scheme also helps to reduce food miles. Products are sourced locally to the food store in which they are sold, often within 30 miles.
Last year, the society converted its traditional delicatessens into a 100% locally sourced, self-service ‘Deli-to-Go’ operation. This £600,000 investment, and a significant expansion in the range of fresh, locally sourced produce, resulted in a sales increase of 23% during last summer. Sales remain 13% higher than previous years.
Research commissioned by the society with YouGov showed that, despite 79% of adults saying they believe it is important to buy locally sourced produce, only 30% have done so in the last week.
The research highlights that vegetables (51%) and meat (40%) topped the list when asked to select the two products that they would be most likely to buy if a locally sourced alternative was available.
This is followed by eggs (30%), milk (22%) and fruit (22%). Less than half (47%) of those questioned thought that they could buy locally sourced produce in a supermarket and only 18% would expect to find it in a convenience store.
Scots are most concerned about local produce, with 90% stating it was important that people in Britain buy locally sourced produce. Next on the list, on 85%, were shoppers from Yorkshire and the Humber. Only 68% of those in London thought it was important.
In contrast, just 17% of 18-24 year olds felt it was very important to buy locally sourced produce and 4% in this age range said it was not at all important.
“This research confirms just how important locally sourced produce is,” said Roger Grosvenor, executive officer for retail.
“During Sourced Locally Fortnight we want to shine a spotlight on local producers and encourage more shoppers to consciously buy local produce, while urging our fellow retailers across the UK to support more local suppliers.”
Other findings showed:
• More women (62%) than men (55%) were likely to be put off buying locally sourced produce if the price wasn’t right
• 62% of Brits have bought locally sourced produce at some point in the last year
• Only 3% admitted they had never bought local produce.
Mr Grosvenor added: “We know what an amazing impact locally sourced produce has had on our business and for our suppliers – we now want to encourage more people to try it.
“If we could encourage every UK household to swap just one product they regularly buy for a local alternative it could plough an extra £42m into local economies up and down the country.”
During Sourced Locally Fortnight, East of England offered an enhanced range of locally sourced produce in its stores throughout Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.
For the first time the retailer stocked locally sourced potatoes, strawberries and asparagus across every store.
• For more details, visit: www.eastofengland.coop/sourcedlocally