Locally sourced products are becoming more important to the majority of The Grocer Top 50 independents. As the issues of provenance and food miles become more prevalent, retailers are looking to respond. In our latest reader panel survey 68% of retailers say they source locally where possible and 80% say that they will consider expanding ranges.
"It is often easier to continue with your existing supply chain but I think the changing emphasis from consumers will force more of a change on retailers in this area," says one retailer.
Seventy four per cent of the reader panel feel customers are interested in locally sourced products and 78% think it is becoming a bigger issue for consumers. "Five years ago I can't remember anyone asking me where I got any of my products but they certainly do today, and in growing numbers," says one retailer. Another adds: "It is definitely more important to our customers, which is why we have started to stock more locally produced lines. We have even visit the farms ourselves to make sure we know how the animals are being kept."
Products such as eggs, cheese, yoghurt, fruit and veg, meat and bakery are typical of the products retailers are sourcing locally. The growth of farmers' markets and increasing numbers of artisan producers in the market are also influencing ranges.
Many retailers feel they should be seen to be supporting their community by stocking products from smaller companies even if it is just a small selection to begin with. "We try to source products from companies nearby because customers recognise the names and understand we are supporting local businesses," says one retailer. "We help them but their local status also benefits us."
Another says: "We use local sourcing as a unique selling point. More and more customers are questioning where our products come from."
Many retailers feel consumer interest does not just relate to whether a food is sourced locally, but how it is produced. Some add that local sourcing is part of the wider issue of responsible retailing, which includes fair trade and organic.
However, a few retailers dismiss the phenomenon as just hype, particularly retailers in rural areas, who say it has always been commercially sensible to source products locally.