Waitrose has unveiled a major new range of locally sourced food at the same time as launching a groundbreaking charter, detailing its commitment to work with smaller suppliers.
Waitrose hopes its Small Producers Charter will ease the mistrust that traditionally exists between the two groups.
The document sets out the retailer's policy towards developing working relationships with potential suppliers and commits it to offering constructive advice, even to producers who decide they would rather work with another company.
To back this charter up Waitrose has been working with Henrietta Green, author of the Food Lover's Guide to Britain, to source a new range called Waitrose Locally Produced. Jocelyn Clarke, central buyer brand development, said: "People who shop at Waitrose want to know where their food comes from and also they want to know who it comes from."
Clarke said the range features distinctive foods with local provenance and is wide ranging. For example in Dorset, stores will be stocking Dorset Blue Vinny cheese while West Sussex stores will stock Melba Peach Liqueur. The retailer is keen to add lines to the range and hopes their innovative charter will assist that objective.
Waitrose managing director Steven Esom said: "The future of British food depends on long-term, positive contact between suppliers and retailers. But if you've never dealt with a supermarket before, you need considerable reassurance that your potential partner has your interests at heart."
The retailer is emphasising that it is prepared to work with any producer regardless of scale.
Esom added: "This is not a numbers game. If a producer can only supply one of our shops, that's fine."
The charter is Waitrose's response to the report by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, which highlighted the significance of local sourcing.
The charter is intended to give small suppliers the help and advice needed to start working with the retailer. Esom said: "It demonstrates that you can get trust, commitment and support from a supermarket."