With the sector gearing up for British Food Fortnight later this month, our wholesaler panel is enthusiastic about the drive for local food, but not necessarily optimistic about its short-term prospects. However, the panel believes wholesalers should explore the chance to create value in the local supply chain.

Only 43%, or less than half our wholesaler reader panel, say they include local foods in their core product offering. All members of the panel report that local foods represent between 0% and 1% of their sales, except for one member who says 10% of his turnover is generated from locally-sourced foods.

This suggests that a significant number of independent retailers are not able to get local foods from their primacy source of products.

However, one panel member from the London area points out that some of his customers are sourcing a few products direct from the local suppliers themselves.

The panel is pessimistic about the short-term growth prospects for local food in the wholesaler channel. Only 28% expected their sales of local food to grow significantly by next year, despite a modest starting point, given that local foods make up less than 1% of their current turnover.

A small majority think that local food could be a source of increased profit for wholesalers — 60% of them say the local food they handle is more profitable for them than comparable products from national or international suppliers.

While local foods remain relatively insignificant in the wholesale sector, our panel members believe that their retail trade customers are giving enough emphasis to local food.

They acknowledge, however, that independent retailers vary in their awareness of and enthusiasm for locally sourced food.

A wholesaler from the south-west notes: "We are actively trying to find a better approach regionally to support our customers and the local food suppliers."

The survey also reveals that fresh produce makes up the bulk of locally-sourced product lines. Wholesalers are optimistic about the prospect of expanding into locally-sourced ambient foods.