This article is part of our 2016 Dairy digital feature.

Morrisons’ launch of its Milk for Farmers brand last autumn and Tesco’s ongoing work with its Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) appears to be resonating with shoppers, according to an exclusive survey commissioned by The Grocer.

Some 19% of 2,017 shoppers polled by Harris Interactive thought Morrisons did the most to support dairy farmers, with the same amount stating Tesco backed the struggling dairy sector the most.

It comes on the back of a turbulent two year period for the British milk sector, in the face of a slump in global dairy commodity prices, a fall in demand and a brutal supermarket price war which has contributed to mass protests on the streets and in supermarket dairy aisles.

Morrisons’ work with Milk for Farmers, which pledges to pay a premium to dairy farmers from a higher than normal retail price, and has helped generate more than £1m in extra payments for Arla members, appears to have swayed respondents.

Which supermarket does the most to support British dairy farmers?

Tesco 19% 20% 18% 22% 20% 18% 20% 18%
Morrisons 19% 18% 20% 15% 20% 20% 18% 20%
The Co-operative 14% 17% 12% 10% 9% 13% 21% 16%
Asda 13% 12% 14% 15% 15% 16% 10% 11%
Waitrose 13% 11% 14% 12% 13% 13% 8% 14%
Sainsbury’s 11% 11% 10% 11% 9% 10% 13% 10%
M&S food 5% 5% 6% 8% 5% 5% 5% 5%
Aldi 4% 4% 4% 4% 7% 2% 4% 4%
Lidl 2% 3% 1% 4% 3% 2% 2% 2%

The retailer also polled strongly in its traditional home county of Yorkshire, with 30% of shoppers stating it did the most to support British dairy farmers, despite criticism from some quarters last year over Arla’s policy – as a pan-European dairy co-op – to distribute the premium from sales across its entire membership, rather than just its UK farmers.

Tesco’s actions to support its farmers through the TSDG, which sees it pay one of the highest farmgate prices of any retailer and significantly above the cost of production, appears to have finally hit home among consumers, particularly in Wales and the East of England, with 27% and 26% of shoppers respectively believing it did the most to support British dairy farmers.

This is in stark contrast to a separate survey undertaken by Harris Interactive for The Grocer last year, when a whopping 25% of consumers picked Tesco as the retailer paying farmers the least for their milk.

While Tesco and Morrisons are in the good books of shoppers, it looks like Aldi and Lidl have much work to do to convince them they’re doing all they can to support beleaguered dairy sector.

Just 2% thought Lidl did the most for farmers, while Aldi was only marginally better at 4%. Some 13% thought the likes of Asda (supplied by Arla), and Waitrose (which pays above the cost of production) did the most for farmers, but only 11% thought Sainsbury’s – which also runs its own aligned pool of dairy farmers and pays above the cost of production – did the most to support the dairy sector.

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