Major retailers respond to food miles campaign petition

Britain’s big supermarkets have responded positively to Farmers Weekly’s Local Food is Miles Better campaign by pledging to stock more local food.

Farmers Weekly invited the major retailers to provide a clear statement of their position on local food and environmental sustainability. They were also asked to respond to its petition on local food which now has over 5,300 signatures.

ASDA, which sells more than 1500 local products from over 300 small suppliers, said it was piloting a pioneering food delivery scheme that would save more than 3m food miles a year if rolled out across the UK.

The two-month pilot scheme enables a group of three Cornish farmers to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables straight to ASDA stores in Falmouth, St Austell, Bodmin and Plymouth rather than via a distribution centre.

Tesco chief executive Terry Leahy said that this summer it had been marketing locally grown, seasonal produce from displays dedicated to showcasing regional products and it also planned to open regional buying offices in England and strengthen its team in Wales.

“We will also introduce new regional counters in more stores so that we can offer our customers more local and regional lines than they will find with any other retailer.”

Sainsbury’s said it was labelling more of its products with the name of the grower or producer. “In Scotland, we now source more than 1000 products from local suppliers which we’re going to double by the end of the year,” said chief executive Justin King.

It had also set itself a target of sourcing 70% of its organic food from the UK by the end of 2006. “Last year we reduced our road mileage by almost 5%,” said Mr King. “We have specific plans in place to save a further 10 million in the coming years.”

Waitrose said sales of local products had risen by 65% in the past year. “If it’s British and it’s in season, we will want it in our shops, provided the quality is there,” said managing director Steven Esom. “There is a lot of excellent British produce to enjoy.”

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Here are the full responses:


ASDA is committed to local food sourcing and has had an active successful programme for the last five years, writes head of ethical and sustainable sourcing, Chris Brown.

The Key features of our offer include:

• Practical deliverable definition of local respects traditional unique food products and doesn’t compromise the ethos of local food. To illustrate, using rigid geographical definitions could qualify food from Lancashire as local in Yorkshire (the Pennines have enough friendly rivalry!)

• ASDA has a dedicated trading team dealing with local food sourcing. This ensures that local food is given the attention and focus across the entire ASDA store estate. This team is able to support small local producers with technical advice and tailoring payment terms according to their business need. More rapid payments are often crucial for establishing businesses establishing themselves.

• ASDA sells more than 1500 locally produced products across the UK, sourced from over 300 local small and micro suppliers.

• ASDA has eight regional food hubs around the country which give small fine food producers access to 12 million customers a week. The hubs enable local products to deliver their products to one central point, cutting food miles and reducing their costs.

• Eighty ASDA stores across Britain already receive direct deliveries of locally produced strawberries during the British growing season. The Scheme was launched in Kent three years ago with just four stores, but has since been rolled out to stores in Yorkshire, Scotland and the West Country. As a result sales of locally produced strawberries are up 48 per cent this year at ASDA.

• Locally grown plums are now also being delivered direct to 22 ASDA stores in the Vale of Evesham and in Kent. All of ASDA’s British plums are grown in Kent and the West Midlands and then sold nationwide during the season from August to September. This year ASDA will also be selling locally produced Kent Cobnuts from the end of August. This nut, which is similar to a Hazelnut, is a traditional Kent speciality.

• ASDA already operates local sourcing programmes for potatoes in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and some regions of England ( Cornwall, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire). The potatoes in our Pembroke Dock store are delivered within an hour of being packed, ensuring they are as fresh as possible.

• ASDA has 550 dedicated Farmer Partners who supply it with all its fresh own label milk. All of the participating farms are located close to the dairies that process the milk. This ensures ASDA’s milk only comes from cattle that graze on nearby farms. The switch to using dedicated farmers has saved around five million road miles a year.

• ASDA recently called for an ‘End The Cheddar Lottery’. All our Cheddar is British and comes from the same site (Aspatria, Cumbria). This can’t be said for other supermarkets who source from a number of countries including: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, Latvia, and Ireland.

• ASDA’s Lamb Link Scheme ensures lambs are collected direct from farms and farmers paid within 48 hours, saving time, hassle and money for farmers. The scheme has saves 1.4 million road miles per year.

ASDA has recently announced that a group of farmers will start delivering their produce direct to its stores, rather than via a distribution centre. The pioneering scheme will initially save more than 6,000 road miles a month, but has the potential, if rolled out across the UK, to save more than three million road miles a year.

Initially three farms in Cornwall will take part in the two month trial, supplying their local ASDA stores with strawberries, potatoes, cabbages, broccoli, greens, leeks and curly kale. Each of the participating growers in the scheme will deliver their produce into a farm near Hayle in Cornwall, where the owner, local strawberry farmer Neil Hosking, will then pack and transport it into ASDA stores in Falmouth, St Austell, Bodmin and Plymouth.

Our ambitions for the next five years are to continue the progress we have made, to develop and expand our local food innovation especially the food hub network and for the customers to recognise and respond to the products. We would also hope for the wider industry to continue to recognise ASDA’s achievements in this area. Our 2004 BBC Food and Farming Retailer of the Year award highlighted the local sourcing programme as did our Multiply Retailer Farming Business 2005 award.



As you know Sainsbury’s was the only retailer present at your press event with David Cameron at the Royal Show on 3 July, and we were delighted to be given the opportunity to outline our response to the campaign, writes chief executive, Justin King.

We take our responsibility on the issues of local sourcing, food miles and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, extremely seriously.

Evidence of support for local suppliers:

We have roughly 1,400 direct suppliers who have their own supply chains stretching to thousands of suppliers, plus we use a network of 3,500 small, local producers. Many of our relationships are long-standing partnerships, sometimes stretching back many decades. We aim to be genuine partners to these suppliers, encouraging them to follow our best practice and supporting them in their own efforts in order to maintain high standards.

Last year we sold over £6 billon of British products. To help our customers identify where their produce has been sourced from in the UK we always label our products by county area and increasingly the name of the grower or producer.

Last year we established an office in Northern Ireland and since March 2006 we have sourced almost 1,000 product lines from Northern Ireland, an increase of 30% since August 2005.

In Scotland we now source more than 1,000 products from local suppliers, which we’re going to double by the end of the year.

To build on this and to make it easier for small and medium sized producers to supply us, we have set up an innovative scheme, Supply Something New. Under the scheme, small producers that have not previously worked with us are given the opportunity to make a pitch to senior colleagues to supply us with products. Our aim is to increase by 50% the number of small British Firms supplying us.

British organics:

100% of our organic meat, fish, poultry and dairy products are sourced from the UK (except when New Zealand lamb is in season). We have set ourselves a target of sourcing 70% of all our organic food to be grown in the UK, by the end of 2006. The rate of the growth of organics market makes this a challenge, so we have launched several industry leading schemes to support our aspirations.

For example, our Farm Promise milk scheme covers all the additional costs incurred by dairy farmers during the period of conversion to organic milk supply. We have pledged to work with the farmers on this scheme for a minimum of three years and three months – the longest milk contract between a retailer and farmers in the industry. Once the  farmers have achieved organic certification, one year contracts will be put in place to ensure that they have a route to market for their milk.

In addition, Sainsbury’s has become the first supermarket to sign contracts with 26 farmers for their British Organic Beef supply, with plans for another 70 contracts to follow. This kick-starts a major drive between Sainsbury’s and BP to support the British organic beef farming industry.

Reducing road miles:

Last year we reduced our road mileage by almost 5% – this equates to 29,000 trips a year that we have taken off the road, exceeding our target by 3% against a 2004/05 baselines. This has meant a saving of 15 million food kilometres and we have specific plans in place to save a further 10 million in the coming years. We work hard to make the most of the miles our vehicles travel- 90% of return journeys from depot to store are utilized either for picking up from suppliers depots (saving many extra miles) or for salvage from store (eg waste, crates etc).

We have a prudent vehicle purchasing policy – as a result of operational efficiencies we have reduced our  unit and trailer fleet by circa 4% and 7% respectively, plus we are gradually renewing our vehicle fleet and are using this opportunity to switch to more efficient engines.

Wherever we can, we use the railways, moving goods off the roads. Goods are carried both on the UK and European networks.

I hope this reassures you of our commitment to the issues you have raised. We believe that locally produced food is important to our customers and we are continuing to work to meet this customer need.



We would agree with your research that customers are increasingly interested in buying local products and we are working hard to help them do this, says Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco chief executive.

We stock British produce wherever we can – 97% of our fresh chicken, 95% of fresh beef, 92% fresh pork and 88% of fresh lamb is British. All our fresh shell eggs and milk comes from British farms.

Because there is customer demand for different fruit and vegetables all year round, we do have to import some produce, including bananas and citrus fruit, which cannot be grown in the UK. However, we always do our best to minimise the environmental impact, bringing in the vast majority of products by sea, and less than 3% by air.

It makes no sense for us to move product unnecessarily around the country and so through our efficient distribution network, we ensure that Tesco and our suppliers keep journeys to a minimum.

We are also working hard with British farmers to extend the growing season so that we can sell even more British produce and import less. For example, since 2000 sales of UK grown strawberries have increased by 170% and the proportion sourced outside the UK has fallen from 25% to 14%.

In addition, we promote British products to customers in our stores across the UK. For example, this summer we have marketed locally-grown, seasonal produce from fixtures dedicated to showcasing regional products. This has included new potatoes, asparagus, sweetcorn, peas, runner and broad beans, tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries.
We have clear labelling to show where our food comes from so that customers can make a choice. We celebrate British provenance at a regional and national level and much of our meat, cheese and produce now features British farmers on pack. Our latest range of Farmhouse cheddars, sourced in the West Country went into stores just last week.

This year we plan to step up our local sourcing operation by opening regional buying offices in England and strengthening our team in Wales. We already have a regional office in Scotland which has dedicated specialists in buying, marketing and merchandising and whose role it is to build positive relationships with local suppliers. We now have more than 100 Scottish suppliers providing us with over 1,000 products.

We will also introduce new regional counters in more stores so that we can offer our customers more local and regional lines than they will find with any other retailer.We will shortly be running our first regional road show to provide small producers with the opportunity to meet Tesco buyers and senior managers with a view to listing more local products.

Our own research tells us that the issues you highlight are important to our customers and I hope you will agree that we have already achieved a lot. But there is plenty more to do, so we have some exciting plans ahead and I look forward to sharing them with you and your readers in the future.



As a food retailer, Waitrose is leading the way in terms of local sourcing, writes managing director Steven Esom.

Waitrose works hard to minimise the environmental impact of its activity, including the minimisation of food miles. It does have to balance this with its aims to provide the very best food and drink from the safest and highest quality sources.

Waitrose buys quality food and drink, locally, nationally and globally. Waitrose has done more than any other retailer to support British farmers and growers. If it’s British and it’s in season, we will want it in our shops, provided the quality is here. The good news is there is a lot of excellent British produce to enjoy.

We always buy British produce when it’s in season, and when it’s at its best. For four years running all strawberries on sale during our domestic strawberry season were sourced within the UK, an achievement which has not been matched by any retailer. Waitrose is unique.

During the English apple and pear season, English apples account for around 70% of our total apple sales and English pears for about 90% of our total pear sales. At the height of the season, Waitrose, representing less than 4% of the multiple retail market sells, on average, up to 160 tonnes of English apples and 83 tonnes of English pears.

All Waitrose beef, pork and eggs are sourced from British suppliers. This includes our ready-meals, pies and sausages, 80% of our bacon is British with 20% sourced from Denmark. All Waitrose own label chicken is produced in the UK.

Our lamb is produced in the UK with the exception of some seasonal lamb from New Zealand our of season. British lamb is always available from our service meat counter. All Waitrose food is clearly labelled with the country of origin, and in some cases, its country.

We also aim to source food and drink from the areas within which trade. We have built on this experience and commitment through the Waitrose Locally produced Initiative. We work with food from Britain’s Regional Food Group to source the very best of local and regional food and drink, which truly reflects the regional diversity of British produce.

Waitrose launched its Locally Produced initiative in 2002. The retailer was awarded the BITC (Business in the Community) Award for Excellence for the third year running in 2005, in recognition of its continued work with local and small producers. Waitrose has a strict definition of a local  product, which , must have been produced within a 30-mile radius of the shop in which it’s sold. This is in line with the definition set by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

We also believe that the ingredients which go into producing this food should be local too. As far as possible, local products are made from locally grown or produced ingredients and are free from unnecessary additives. Local products in Waitrose shops include fruit and vegetables, sausages, bacon, ice-cream. Wines, cheeses, sauces and honey. In the last year alone sales of local and regional lines in Waitrose have increased by 65%. Local food in Waitrose is easy to identify and customers are directed to Locally Produced lines with self-edge barkers.

Waitrose continues to work with more small, local and regional producers to offer our customers the best quality food, made on their doorstep, delivered direct to our shops where possible. And we are continually working closely with regional food groups across the country to help source the very best local and regional foods.

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Morrisons and Marks and Spencer have confirmed they will respond to the campaign, shortly.