With the sector gearing up for British Food Fortnight later this month, our wholesaler panel is enthusiastic about the drive for local food, but not necessarily optimistic about its short term prospects. However the panel believes that wholesalers should explore opportunities to create value in the local supply chain.

Only 43%, or less than half of our wholesaler reader panel, say they included local foods at all in their core product offering. All members of the panel report that local foods represent between 0% and 1% of their sales, except for one member who says 10% of his turnover is generated from locally sourced foods.

This suggests that a significant number of independent retailers of independent retailers are not able to get local foods from their primacy source of products. However, one panel member from the London area points out that some of his customers are sourcing a few products direct from the local suppliers themselves.

The panel is pessimistic about the short term growth prospects for local food in the wholesaler channel. Only 28% expected their sales of local food to grow significantly by next year, despite a modest starting point, given that most said local foods make up less that 1% of their current turnover.

A slight majority think that local food could be a source of increased profit for wholesalers. 60% of them say the local food they handled is more profitable for them than comparable products from national or international suppliers.

While local foods remain relatively insignificant in the wholesale sector, our panel members believe that their retail trade customers are giving enough emphasis to local food. They acknowledge however, that there is a significant variance among independent retailers in their awareness and enthusiasm for locally sourced food. A wholesaler from the southwest notes: “We are actively trying to find a better approach regionally to support our customers and the local food suppliers.”

Fresh produce seems to make up the bulk of their locally-sourced product lines. However they are optimistic about the prospect of expanding into ambient foods:
67%, or two thirds of the panel, believe that there is potential to grow the distribution of ambient local foods through the wholesale channel. One member says: ”There is good potential in this. Generally, the local brands do not have the finance to go elsewhere, so our support as wholesalers is important.”

The questions we asked:

1: Do you currently offer locally sourced products on a regular basis??
Yes: 43%
No: 57%

2: Do you expect your sales of local products to increase next year?
Yes: 28%
No: 72%

3: Are the local products you offer more profitable for you than similar lines from national and international suppliers?
Yes: 60%
No: 40%

4: Do you believe that your trade customers are giving enough emphasis to local products?
Yes: 67%
No: 33%

5: Do you think that there is potential in the wholesale sector for locally-sourced ambient food?
Yes: 67%
No: 33%