SIR; I heartily applaud the sentiment behind Neal Hattersley’s essay on new food sectors (The Grocer, October 29, p28), but I’m astonished by the naivety of its premise.
Farmers’ markets aren’t like traditional fruit and vegetable markets. They are not a substitute for supermarkets; rather they’re an opportunity for small-scale producers to sell premium foods at premium prices. Good on them. It’s no surprise that some happily trek 200 miles to Borough Market and back every week.
Paying a premium for quality food actually denotes the social cachet of farmers’ markets. The food itself comes second. Go to a London dinner party on a Saturday night and the welcome chat will be about where the grouse and greengages came from. If they came from Borough, you’ve made it, chum.
Similarly, a percentage of affluent consumers across the UK proudly boast that they don’t do supermarkets. These sectors, buoyed by the social value of success, are the lifeblood of farmers’ markets.
That in mind, popularise them with convenience store prices and they’ll die. Robbed of reason, affluent shoppers will flock back to high-end supermarkets where premium prices and quality meet all-over convenience. The way to reinforce the role of farmers’ markets is to keep them special.