The multiples are rightly proud of their increasingly short supply chains, with many items of produce now getting from ground to store with 48 hours.
But they can only dream of achieving what The Grocer Top 50 retailer Booths has managed with potatoes harvested and in store in four to eight hours.
The retailer says selling new potatoes on the same day they were lifted proved such a success this summer that it will repeat the exercise next year.
This is a mixed blessing for Lancashire potato grower Sean Mallinson. He led a bleary-eyed nocturnal existence for four weeks in June, harvesting Maris Bard spuds in the early hours of the morning to ensure they were delivered to 24 of Booths’ 26
stores by 8.30am the same day. But the hard work was worth it - Booths’ English new potato sales doubled during the period the ‘Dug This Morning’ potatoes were on offer, and outstripped sales of the popular Jersey Royals. They sold at a premium, too: Dug This Morning potatoes retailed at £1.99/kg, double the price of Jerseys.
Chris Treble, Booths’ fruit and vegetable buyer, said that many of the retailer’s other supply chains were short, but the potato initiative had trumped all of them.“In terms of time to shelf, this has been our pièce de résistance. It started out as a wacky idea and we ended up with a superb product and loads of satisfied customers.”
The potatoes were harvested at 1am and were taken immediately to a distribution centre in Preston by the subcontractor for Booths, Sharrocks Fresh Produce.
From there, Sharrocks shipped the potatoes, loose and unwashed, out to Booths stores in lined crates in time for store opening time.
Treble said Booths was considering extending the concept to other items of fresh produce, such as salads, tomatoes and strawberries.
Richard Clarke