Sainsbury’s is reviewing the delivery of fresh milk to its convenience outlets, with more c-stores potentially set to receive milk via its regional distribution centres.

Because it is sold in such high volumes, fresh milk is typically delivered direct to store by processors. However, milk volumes in c-stores tend to be smaller than in regular supermarkets.

To minimise disruption to c-stores, and increase efficiency, The Grocer understands Sainsbury’s is considering switching more c-stores to RDC milk delivery, and has signalled to processors its desire to explore its options for RDC delivery ahead of the re-tendering of its liquid milk supply contract in February.

“The milk throughput in c-stores is less than in larger supermarkets, so it makes sense to look at RDCs,” said one source.

Another reason RDC deliveries may make more sense is because direct-to-store deliveries are made on wire trolleys, whereas RDC deliveries typically come on pallets, allowing retailers to send out mixed pallets to stores, comprising fresh milk and other groceries, instead of stores having to accept large consignments of milk at a time.

Some of Sainsbury’s c-store estate already receives RDC deliveries, but it declined to say how many. The retailer also said it would not speculate on potential changes to its supply chain until the re-tender has been carried out. It added: “We value our long-term relationship with our UK dairy farmers, and providing our customers with quality and value are our priorities.”

The Sainsbury’s fresh liquid milk contract is currently served by Müller Wiseman Dairies (50%), Dairy Crest (45%) and Arla (5%). The processors will be required to enter their re-tender bids next month, but Sainsbury’s is not expected to announce a decision until later in the year.