The Co-operative Food today (Friday 5 December 2014) made an unequivocal £1.5billion three year commitment to support and celebrate British food.
The commitment comes as new consumer research shows that:
- 90% of shoppers want supermarkets to sell more food from British farms
- 81 percent of farmers believe retailers should support UK farming by only selling British meat and poultry.
In response, the convenience retailer has pledged to source British products over and above alternatives for its “own brand” meat, poultry, produce and dairy products and at the same time it will adopt a totally transparent approach to its marketing of UK food and will report back annually on its progress.
This means that all “own-brand” meat, with the specific exception of New Zealand lamb and Danish bacon, sold in Co-operative Food stores will be British as will be in its chilled ready meals and pies, sandwiches*, eggs and milk.
Launching its new UK sourcing report, entitled Born and Bred, The Co-operative Food re-enforced its commitment to its farming groups, which were launched last year, in order to back British farmers and agriculture. The farming groups enable the retailer to cement relationships with producers, deliver a continued investment in quality and provide shoppers with a more consistent and transparent supply chain.
Steve Murrells, The Co-operative Food’s Retail Chief Executive, said:
“At the heart of our pledge is a commitment to be open and honest about where the food we sell comes from and to ensure that is it marketed and promoted in a fair and transparent way.
“Trust in retailers has been dented in recent years and we hope our openness about where we source our meat, poultry and produce will encourage more retailers to follow suit.
“Shoppers want to know about the origin of their products and if supermarkets import meat for use in products it is important that, as well as being identified on product labelling, in-store marketing should not seek to unwittingly mislead. Backing British must mean more than just rolling out the bunting.”
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
“This new commitment is a fantastic vote of confidence for the UK food and drink industry. We know British consumers value products from this country which have a world-renowned reputation for their high quality and traceability.
“These figures show shoppers want to buy more British – we’re supporting this by improving country of origin labelling which will be mandatory for lamb, pork, poultry and goat meat from April next year.
“I would encourage all supermarkets to carefully consider the labelling on their products so their customers know exactly where their food comes from.”
Research for the report shows that almost three out of four (73 per cent) of consumers have more confidence in British sourced food and a massive 86 per cent feel that food is more traceable when produced on British farms. More than eight out of ten (84 per cent) say that buying British sourced food is important to them with one in three saying it is very important. The study also shows that almost half of consumers (47 per cent) see the origin of food as the second most important label information after the use or sell by date (66 per cent).
NFU President Meurig Raymond welcoming the report said:
“It highlights the importance of British produce to consumers. Almost nine out of 10 people feel that food is more traceable when sourced from UK farms and this further reinforces the growing role British produce plays in major retailers delivering a product that consumers want and trust.
“It is reassuring to see a major retailer clearly setting out its commitments to UK produce in a transparent and reviewable fashion, in particular via an open and clear report on their commitments to British agriculture through the publication of an annual report.
“The Born and Bred Report will allow consumers and farmers to monitor The Co-operative’s performance against its sourcing commitments on an annual basis. This is of paramount importance to help instil confidence in consumers and producers alike in how The Co-operative operates continuously.
“We look forward to working with The Co-operative in helping them further their support to British agriculture.”
Channel 4 presenter and farmer, Jimmy Doherty, said:
“Farming is the cornerstone of society as it powers the wider economy with food and jobs. Openness and honesty in food sourcing has never been so important and it is essential in helping to educate people about where our food comes from and to enable people to support UK farmers by ‘buying British.’ The Co-op’s move to commit to invest in home-produced meat, poultry and produce is a step in the right direction as it celebrates British agriculture and invests in its future. Farmers are unsung heroes and the Co-op’s pledges serve as an example to other retailers to be open and accountable about their sourcing polices.”
The Co-operative Food’s pledges:
- Invest a minimum of £1.5bn to source ‘own brand’ British meat, produce and dairy products from the UK
- Commit to openness and transparency by highlighting sourcing in our sustainability report and to producing a detailed report on our progress each year
- Market British products honestly, clearly identifying British products on packaging and in store
- Develop relationships with our produce grower base and provide greater availability of seasonal produce.
- The Co-operative will extend its Farming Groups
- It will provide only 100% fresh British beef, chicken, ham, pork, sausages, duck and turkey and support British lamb when in season
- It will offer only 100% British milk
- Only use British meat in all chilled ready meals, pies and sandwiches
Notes to editors:
*With the exception of continental varieties in ready meals and sandwiches eg Chorizo.
The Co-operative Group, which is the UK’s largest co-operative business with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £11 billion For more information about The Co-operative Food go to www.co-operativefood.co.uk
For further information please contact:
PR Business Lead – Retail
The Co-operative Group
Tel: 0161 767 4284 / 07702 505439