The retailer, which promotes local food in-store through PoS material, admitted it had failed to maximise sales to online shoppers. "This is a real opportunity to bring local sourcing to our online shoppers and to the real foodies out there," said local food category manager Sarah Mackie.
The news came as Tesco revealed it was on track for sales of local products to hit £1bn a year. In 2006, outgoing boss Sir Terry Leahy set the figure as a target to reach "in five years".
At a time when retailers were seeing a rise in "online engagement" with customers Tesco.com now received more than one million hits a week Tesco didn't want to be behind the curve with regards to online local food sales, said Mackie.
Research commissioned by Tesco last year revealed that 44% of shoppers bought more local food now than they did five years ago, and 28% bought more than they did one year ago [Marketing Sciences, November 2010].
Mackie would not give details of Tesco's sales expectations for the microsite part of the Tesco Real Food website but said she hoped it would bring a significant increase in sales through Tesco.com.
The microsite will indicate Tesco suppliers within 50 miles of a shopper's local store, and will give users the option to change this to either 30 or 100 miles. Consumers will be able to shop the microsite in a similar way to Tesco.com and will be taken to the main Tesco.com site to pay.
The microsite will also allow shoppers to recommend a supplier, and producers can put themselves forward as potential Tesco suppliers. Mackie said producers would not be charged for being featured.
The Real Food site will feature recipes that use local produce and will include additional content such as details of local food festivals.