mince meat

You can see The Grocer’s Meat, Fish & Poultry feature by clicking here.

The ‘power of collaboration’ is the new ‘joint business plan’. But as easy as it is to dismiss this fashionable grocery buzzword as yet more fluff and puff - especially in the current climate - there are sectors and categories where collaboration has been genuinely transformative. The meat sector, for example.

While models vary - ranging from the fully vertically integrated approach espoused by Morrisons to looser strategic alliances in the vein of Waitrose’s work with Dovecote Park - they all share one underlying rationale: a desire for retailers to move closer to their suppliers.

The reasons are many. They include security of supply and improved transparency and supply chain visibility - issues that still loom large post-Horsegate, amid volatile global markets.

But collaboration - that fluffy, puffy buzzword - is also vital in cold commercial terms.

The rise of the discounters has changed the game in fresh meat. To be able to compete with the prices offered by Aldi and Lidl, the traditional supermarkets have needed to take a long, hard look at their supply chains. And they’re learning that the efficiencies that make discounter-style meat pricing possible aren’t achieved by a scorched earth trader mentality, or annual tenders, or changing suppliers on a whim. They are the result of careful long-term collaboration.

Not that all collaborative models deliver equally well on that front, of course. As we explore in our Meat, Fish & Poultry feature this week, some industry players have managed to get more value out of their collaborations than others - and tying your fate to a particular supplier long term brings risks as well as rewards.

On the whole, however, there is little doubt collaboration will remain top of the agenda. The meat, fish & poultry sectors face formidable challenges - campylobacter and antimicrobial resistance being further impostors - that simply cannot be solved alone. To stand a chance of cracking any of these, retailers, suppliers - and also farmers - will have to make partnerships their top priority.