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The temporary suspension will end tomorrow 

Booker has paused its frozen deliveries for three days in a bid to protect goods from the heatwave.

The temporary suspension started on Monday this week and was put in place to protect frozen product integrity, quality and health & safety, The Grocer was told.

It only relates to Booker Retail Partners (BRP), which is the wholesale supplier to independent retailers under the Budgens and Londis brands.

However, The Grocer understands that Premier retailers can also order chilled and frozen goods via the BRP supply chain to get a wider product range, meaning some Premier stores have also been impacted by the move.

Cash & carry remains unaffected because frozen goods are transported in a different way to BRP due to differences in vehicles sizes and when goods are loaded. 

BRP retailers were notified of the disruption at the end of last week.

Retailers supplied by other major wholesalers are also reporting supply issues because temperature-controlled vehicles are unable to cope with the heat. This is because chilled and frozen goods would be at risk from melting or not meeting the requirements to be kept below a certain temperature throughout the supply chain.

High demand for products such as water and soft drinks are also causing gaps on shelves for independents. One Stop franchisee Aman Uppal said availability among these products was “low”, but had been using local independent suppliers, as well as Booker and Bestway, to ensure his shelves were “full during this current period”.

Some of the co-op societies had anticipated higher stock volumes would be needed and had bought ahead earlier on in the season. 

Heart of England Co-op, for example, said sales of 2kg ice cube bags showed a 240% increase last week. This equated to 2,211 bags against a typical 650 bags on an average-temperature week.

“There had been concerns the supply chain might run short of stock so we built stocks in the stores over the previous eight weeks, ensuring we had ice cubes for our customers and members when they needed them most,” said Steve Browne, general manager of the Heart of England Co-op’s food division.

“A handful of stores had low stocks [yesterday, 19 July], but we’re building the stocks back to a high level.”

Southern Co-op and Lincolnshire Co-op also both stocked up in advance to protect availability.

“We were aware of the spell of hot weather forecast so we did stock accordingly on in-demand items,” said a spokeswoman for Lincolnshire Co-op. ”Demand is high for products like ice, ice creams and soft drinks but we are managing this currently.”

A spokeswoman for Southern Co-op added: “Our availability team has been working hard to protect availability across our stores. When there are high levels of predictable demand, the team has been driving stock volumes into stores early in the season.

“This has been successful as our stores have been able to recover quickly from exceptionally busy periods. We currently have good stock levels for most ice cream and soft drinks.”