Asda and its regional food hub, Springfield Fine Foods, are looking for more producers in the midlands to meet the growing demand for local food.

From September SFF will increase the number of Asda stores it supplies from four to 13. Currently it has 20 producer-members supplying 120 lines of branded produce.

The range covers fresh goods such as bakery, butchery, dairy products, fruit and vegetables and preserves such as jams, honey, pickles and chutneys as well as local beers, wines and bottled water. The aim is to maintain the commitment to local producers by sourcing sufficient produce from within a 30 miles of the hub, which is at Burton Fields Farm, near Hinckley, Leicestershire.

“Eggs and cheeses are selling well, but we are struggling to find local producers supplies of vegetables,” said manager David Rose. He is keen to hear from anyone interested in supplying Springfield, specifically fruit and vegetable growers.

The business also supplies 12 farm shops in the region as well as delicatessens, hotels, restaurants, tea shops and company restaurants. Mr Rose is confident that there is enough flexibility to meet demand for new products and is also developing plans to supply eight local schools.

But Asda is the focus at present. “It’s a mammoth task getting all the producers accredited and getting packaging, labelling and bar-coding sorted out,” Mr Rose said. This detailed and time-consuming process would be impossible for many small producers to undertake on their own, he added.

“Not everyone will be better off supplying Asda. We can’t promise a better price than they would get elsewhere, but we can offer higher volume and lower marketing and distribution costs.

“Producers often don’t analyse distribution and delivery costs properly. The minute you get into a vehicle to make a delivery, it’s costing you £1 a mile and if the producer is making that delivery, he or she is away from the business. They are busy driving their produce around when they could be driving their business in another direction.”

The group has also benefited from advice from regional agricultural consultants Bidwells. “Springfield is based on a proven model which we have tried elsewhere,” said Richard Walters, Bidwells’ head of food marketing. “There is great opportunity in the market for local and regional food which will continue to grow and we’ve been able to use our business relationships to benefit Springfield.”

SFF will supply most of the products going into Asda under its “Good ‘n Local” label while producers will continue to sell elsewhere under their own brand. “Some of the brands will be strong enough to stand up under their own label others want to use the Good ‘n Local brand to protect their prices elsewhere.”

But the pressure will be on products to compete with existing lines from the outset. “Each product line has got to sell £30 to £40 a week in Asda to keep its place on the shelf some won’t be able to do that,” said Mr Rose.

Gaining a listing with Asda, however, required each producer to pass the retailer’s accreditation scheme. At a cost of £380 per business most consider it worthwhile.

“We’ve got some quite small producers who would have struggled to get into Asda on their own. Some of these will be supplying Asda on a one, two or three-store basis. We’ve also got some who don’t want to be in a major multiple.”

Asda store - FWI

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