Just days after William Jackson Food Group bought Abel & Cole, the veg box supplier faces a mighty competitor as Tesco gears up to launch Soil & Seed - a new exclusive-to-Tesco organic veg box brand - The Grocer can reveal.
Soil & Seed - a brand owned by organic veg supplier Tio - will soft launch in the first week of November in the London area.
It is expected to offer shoppers the choice of five boxes: small, medium and large veg and salad boxes, as well as a fruit box and a mixed fruit, veg and salad box. All products will be Soil Association certified organic. Price points are expected to be comparable with similar schemes offered by Abel & Cole and its close rival Riverford Organic Farms.
It is not the first time Tesco has tried its hand with organic veg boxes. In 2006, the retailer offered them in a limited number of stores as part of a regional trial, but there was no delivery element and shoppers had to buy them in store.
Tesco was far better placed to make a scheme work this time around because it was initially restricting the scheme to the affluent London area using its sophisticated London distribution network, said one source. “It has three state-of-the-art distribution centres that can target London in a much more effective way,” the source said. The UK regions were dominated by Riverford, Abel & Cole and smaller parochial schemes, the source said.
Tesco said the scheme would see it work with its organic farmers to distribute high quality veg across the capital. “As always at Tesco, the scheme will offer great value for money,” a spokeswoman said.
Soil & Seed was not out to devalue the offers of Riverford and Abel & Cole, the source added. Instead, it was “on a par with them. The selling point of this is the convenience that you can have this seven days a week,” he said.
However, delivery options are expected to be more flexible than specialist schemes. Shoppers will be able to have their box delivered up to seven days a week using the standard Tesco online delivery system, allowing them to book a specific delivery slot. It will also be subject to Tesco’s standard delivery charge of between £3 and £6.
Abel & Cole does not deliver at weekends and a customer’s designated delivery day varies depending on where a customer lives. It is not possible to book a designated delivery slot and deliveries can be delivered at any time between 5am and 6pm. Riverford, meanwhile, delivers between 6am and 8pm on a designated delivery day.
William Jackson was unavailable for comment.