Tesco plans to massively increase the volume of local fresh produce it sells under its local sourcing initiative.
Speaking at a local sourcing event last week, Tesco's head of local sourcing, Emily Shamma, revealed that in certain areas such as East Anglia and the south east, fresh produce could account for "the majority" of regionally branded sales in the future.
"The amount will vary according to region," she said. "But we know that when people talk about local produce they think about fresh, so fresh produce is bound to gain."
In a move that could spark controversy over Tesco's interpretation of the word 'local', she said it would consider stocking successful products in stores outside their region.
The fresh produce drive follows last month's announcement of a major expansion of the local sourcing initiative in a bid to sell more than £1bn of local products by 2011 compared with the current £400m.
Tesco has already opened five local buying offices across England, supplementing those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and last year took on 90 new suppliers.
"If suppliers are good and have a product consumers want, we will consider it," said Shamma.
In terms of fresh produce suppliers, Tesco was interested in talking to any potential regional producer, provided it could supply at least one store, she said.
Tesco currently sells regionally branded mushrooms, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, broccoli, onions, peas, sprouts, apples and pears. Other local foods include East Anglian
tinned peas and carrots, fruit juices, beers, ciders, and crisps.
"What Tesco customers want from local is different to what farmers' market shoppers look for," said Shamma.
Under the retailer's local sourcing initiative, new suppliers are supported by a £1m dedicated fund to help with marketing, packaging and food safety issues.