The announcement of a small tie-up between Daylesford Organic and Planet Organic might not be the biggest deal in the world but it has obvious benefits for both organisations and could point the way to more such links.
From the end of this month, Planet Organic's Westbourne Grove store in London will feature goods supplied by Daylesford, which runs five of its own stores, but also sources seasonal and ambient organic products directly from its farms in Gloucestershire.
Such tie-ups are likely to become more prevalent as grocers come under increasing pressure to secure regular supply and in sufficient quantities of the local, wholesome and organic product that more consumers are demanding. This issue was brought into sharp focus for me on another visit to Whole Foods Market in Union Square in New York last week.
I'll be fascinated to see how well the flagship store, which is soon to open in Kensington in London, will be able to replicate the retail experience. The presentations of fresh produce, patisserie, bakery, fish and meat counters and the breadth of the ambient ranges are by now quite familiar within the cosmopolitan, New York market place. But the retailer seems to have taken another step forward in the delicatessen sections by expanding the quality and breadth of its in-store prepared ranges, which are presented in loose, self-selection islands with great lighting. The whole impact is a stark contrast to the clinical and over- packaged presentation of freshly prepared foods in even the best British supermarkets.
But, given the scarce and disparate nature of the organic supply base in the UK, Whole Foods will have its work cut out to replicate the offer in London. Without a concerted effort to make the processing and distribution of the supply lines more professional, it will be impossible. Using small scale and relatively inefficient UK organic wholesalers will be no more than a stopgap.
There is little doubt that UK customers are demanding more locally produced organic produce with as little packaging as possible. As such there is a significant opportunity for retailers to encourage smaller producers through direct investment and joint venture arrangements. The Daylesford and Planet Organic tie-up is one of a trickle of such arrangements that I expect to start flooding in over the coming years.