Booker has promised its independent retail customers that it will lock down the prices of key grocery items for long fixed periods to help them compete with the multiples.

The wholesaler has developed a new strategy called Everyday Essentials, which it said guaranteed competitive prices along with strong margins on milk, eggs, bread and potatoes. Booker wanted to help retailers shake off the consumer perception that independents were too expensive, said director of trading Andrew Thompson.

The wholesaler has worked with Associated British Foods, Stonegate, Robert Wiseman, Dairy Crest and Total Produce to deliver the price commitments. Prices on the current deals and future promotions would remain fixed for at least four months at a time, said Thompson.

"Our retail customers told us they wanted to be competitive on price, but especially on standard everyday products," he added. "They also said they didn't want one-off deals but needed good prices all year."

Current deals for Booker's retail customers include two litres of milk for 79p when bought in a case of four and Kingsmill Everyday 800g loaves for 66p each as part of a tray of 10 units.

Egg supplier Stonegate has also developed an exclusive price-marked pack for Booker. Retailers will pay 72p per pack when they buy a case of eight, while individual cartons will carry an on-pack price of 99p.

All these deals have been benchmarked against the multiples to allow independents to sell these items at similar or cheaper prices, said Thompson, who added suppliers had been supportive as the plan created a "virtuous circle" of growth.

Booker has now increased its order with each supplier to keep up availability of the key products, as it was expecting increased sales at its independent outlets.

Meanwhile, Booker has launched new prepacked fresh meat and fruit and vegetable ranges. Both ranges were rolled out this month to 151 of the group's 173 branches.