The Co-operative Group “should be doing better” and is changing the way it deals with suppliers to improve performance.

Ian Martin, who joined the society from Asda in September as head of commercial trading for BWS, tobacco and frozen food, said The Co-op’s relationship with suppliers had been “transactional” in the past, but from now on would become “collaborative”.

“There is the opportunity to do things quite differently,” he told suppliers last week. “We will work with you to get it right with monthly updates and quarterly reviews. What we need from suppliers is to share our passion for growth and ambition. Be convinced about the changes taking place. The difference from last year is like night and day.”

The Co-op had just relaunched joint business plans and a new strategy called ‘think customer think strategy’. The team was “out talking to suppliers now,” Martin added.

However, suppliers were split over whether the changes would make a difference for the society, whose food sales have struggled in the past couple of years.

“Latest corporate presentations do seem to appear to be more grounded and less pie in the sky,” one supplier told The Grocer. “There is a noticeable change in attitude of staff in Manchester, making collaboration a possibility, or at least until there are some tough results.”

But another senior supplier said: “The operation is crippled by masses of bureaucracy. I think they will be hard pressed to pull it off.”

Martin also revealed an own label relaunch was planned next year to “demonstrate our food credentials and improve value perceptions”.