Sir: The Guild of Fine Food is aware of the constant changes to sourcing policies within the retail sector. Not a week goes by without another advertising campaign telling consumers about local sourcing and fair deals for producers. This, it often feels, is done to satisfy a fad rather than to support the small producer (‘Co-op pledges to take lead on local sourcing’, 24 May, p8).
There are, of course, success stories, with the producers finding a commercially sensible source of volume from the multiples, but these are outnumbered by stories of the maker being forced to dumb down the food, compromise the ingredients and production techniques, all in an attempt to hit a price point. Will this be the only way The Co-op can make this work?
What the Co-op may be able to achieve when it has resolved the ‘operational challenges’ and ‘economic viability’ of sourcing locally is to offer a token number of local products on its shelves. This does not compare to Guild retail members, many of whom source from hundreds of different local producers each week of the year.
We wait to see the results of the pilot in Scotland with interest and note with further interest that the stores with an independent buying policy within the Co-op have more commercial success.
We would venture that these stores provide an improved retail experience, stocking a wider variety and better quality of food and drink from a larger ledger of suppliers. Might it be that genuine local sourcing may just work?
John Farrand, national director, Guild of Fine Food