Meet the buyer…
Alan Kirby, dairy buyer, Booths
Alan buys cheese, chilled desserts & patisserie, butters, fats, and milk for Booths. He loves the people and stories that make the products great.
Alan’s top launch: Booths own-brand cheese
Our Booths brand cheese launch has been fantastic.Each of the cheeses in the range are sourced from the area most associated with that cheese type. No other UK supermarket makes this claim about their own-label cheese range.
The Lancashire range is produced by Dewlay Cheesemakers of Garstang, the Wensleydale is from Wensleydale Dairy Products in Hawes, the Cheshire is from Joseph Heler in Cheshire, and so on. The range now includes blue cheeses, hard Italian cheeses, soft cheeses like PDO feta, French and Cornish brie, and cottage cheeses too. Own-label now accounts for 67% of the pre-pack cheese range at Booths, and has experienced growth of 42.9%.
How would you sum up the past year in dairy?
AK: It’s been a difficult year. But some people, including Booths, are doing the right thing. We’ve just celebrated the second anniversary of our Fair Milk scheme, with a review of the impact of the scheme on farmers and customers. The scheme pledges to pay the highest market price to farmers, ensuring farmers receive a fair price for their milk, generously covering the cost of production and enabling them to invest in a stable, profitable future, preserving family farms for future generations.
The price war is having a massive impact on the dairy category – milk, butter, cheese are all key footfall drivers. We continue to pull in customers based on our value and quality, and it’s a case of continuing to educate consumers about the importance of paying a fair price to producers.
Customer research for us has indicated that 93% of Booths shoppers support the ethos of fair milk and would continue to buy milk that has been bought for a fair price from farmers, even if that means paying more for milk at the tills. 66% of shoppers said the fair price paid to farmers on Booths milk was their most important consideration on purchase. We continue to educate consumers on the importance of supporting our farmers, helping to make a credible difference, with no gimmicks.
How is dairy being affected by the price war and what opportunities are there to add value to the category?
AK: It is having a massive impact – milk, butter, cheese are all key footfall drivers. We continue to pull in customers based on our value and quality, and it is a case of continuing to educate consumers about the importance of paying a fair price to producers. We can add value by encouraging customers to think about where and how they shop. Booths offers great quality as well as more ‘niche’ products one might not find elsewhere. We encourage our customers to visit our counters, which offer the best quality produce. For example, organic milk, yoghurt and luxury milkshakes are all doing brilliantly.
Exclusive research for The Grocer shows that 50% of consumers think supermarkets should be doing more to support dairy farmers. It also suggests that attitudes towards fat content are changing. What are your views on this?
AK: Absolutely – and Booths is totally committed to helping farmers. We hope our Fair Milk scheme will set a precedent for others to follow. The browsing time at the milk fixture in minimal. This figure demonstrates that customers are trusting their usual supermarket to do the right thing for the farmer so they don’t have to think about it.
Unfortunately there is some bad publicity on fat levels, which is misleading to the consumer. Full-fat milk & yoghurt is actually only about 4%, meaning in many other categories it would be classed as low fat. Soft white cheeses such as Bries and Camemberts are lower in fat than hard cheeses. If a lower fat cheese is selected, often this comes with a taste compromise, which we like to avoid. Some of the myths surrounding dairy are problematic to the category.
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