Duchy Originals, the organic food brand established by Prince Charles, is believed to be on the brink of a dramatic range review that could result in a significant cut in the number of products sold under the brand.
Suppliers have told The Grocer they believe Duchy is planning to slash the range of products it offers as part of a wider strategic review of the business implemented by new management.
The first casualty has been sausage supplier Cranswick Country Foods. Duchy is cutting the number of pork suppliers it uses from three to two, meaning Cranswick will stop supplying Duchy from the end of April.
It will continue to source pork from Denhay Farms and Hygrade Foods.
Duchy refused to confirm or deny any plans to rationalise its product range, or to reduce its supplier base further. In a statement, it said: "We continually review our product range and producer partners to ensure we offer the best range of products to suit the market."
Duchy Originals group chief executive Andrew Baker, who joined in September, added: "Following a comprehensive strategic review of our business, we have decided to rationalise our organic and free-range pork supply base. This will maximise efficiencies and improve our ability to anticipate and supply consumer demand."
However, Bernard Hogarth, chief executive of Cranswick's food business, said he understood Duchy was "doing a fairly extensive product review to go down to its core competency".
He added: "I am very disappointed, based on our commitment to Duchy for the past 12 years that it has ended like this."
Another supplier, also in the meat sector, said he believed Duchy was preparing to strip out a sizeable portion of its range, which currently includes 157 food and drink lines as well as some health and beauty products and garden tools.
Duchy products are sold in the major supermarkets, John Lewis, Booths, Boots and some independents.
It has also emerged Duchy plans to transfer the marketing of most of its products to its producer partners - changing the nature of the company from a supplier to little more than a licensing company.
This will apply to all Duchy products, with the exception of its bakery and sweet desserts, which will continue to be managed by the Duchy sales team.
Baker said this was a positive move for customers, producers and Duchy. "By passing responsibility for sales and retail promotion to our producers we can capitalise on their category expertise and maximise our operation capabilities," he said. "The shorter lines of communication between producer and customer will mean we can respond faster and more effectively to our customers' requirements."
The shift is part of the first stage of Duchy's long-term growth plan under a new-look senior management unveiled this week. Marketing director Richard Hogg has been appointed to the new role of operations director, while John Luck has joined as commercial director from Time Out.
Michael Bailey, financial controller, has been promoted to finance and IT director, while Robert McKinnon, currently a partner at Marakon Associates, will join as group development director next month.