Ten years of championing local food and drink producers

Getting behind local producers is more important than ever, according to Southern Co-op. That’s why they have spent the summer championing local food and drink, encouraging people to try and buy local fare across England’s southern counties.

Celebrating ten years of leading the way on local, Southern Co-op’s Local Flavours VW camper van blazed a trail across the region, showcasing the very best artisan producers; bringing a free taste of local fare to major events and Southern Co-op stores across ten counties, from Kent to Devon.

As well as selling only 100 per cent British fresh meat in its stores, every county where Southern Co-op trades has a bespoke Local Flavours range sourced from within county or bordering counties. The range, available in selected stores, may include seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, locally caught and reared fish and meat, along with products from baked goods to beer, cheeses to chutneys and many more.

Mark Smith, Southern Co-op Chief Executive said: “Sourcing British food matters to us, not just because it contributes to the UK economy and employment, but because it’s important to our customers.  In these uncertain times, it offers reassurance and builds trust in food security and sustainability.

“Southern Co-op has seen significant growth in its local food and drink offer, with double digit growth year upon year, reaching £5.2m in 2016. That growth is set to continue with the expansion of local into more stores, building on the 88 that now have a comprehensive local offer. We pride ourselves on long term partnerships, whilst always welcoming new suppliers like COOK, who joined us last year, a Kent company producing premium frozen ready meals.”

Artisan breads and rolls from a local Isle of Wight baker proved so popular with customers, Southern Co-op sales rose by a third in stores trialing the new products alongside its in-store bakery. They are now looking for local bakers who can supply stores in their other southern counties. Craft beers are also capturing the public imagination, with a comprehensive range of local beers doubling sales when introduced into Southern stores in all counties.

Kate Hibbert, Southern Co-op Local Sourcing Manager said: “As an independent regional retailer in southern England, it’s vital that we play a pivotal role in supporting local food producers and the rural economy; this is very much part of our business ethos as a co-operative. We build great relationships with passionate suppliers, helping them to develop their business skills to get their products from field to fork, while strengthening co-operation across our supply base to share good practice and ideas. Looking ahead, we will continue to grow this side of our business and it’s clear that in my role as Local Sourcing Manager, I’m going to be busier than ever!”

The Local Flavours summer campaign attracted crowds to its camper van, which made its first stop at Lenham in Kent before heading on through Surrey, Berkshire, West Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon.

The campaign, well received by the media, highlighted superb producers from across the region, including Kent Crisps, Curd & Cure, Popcorn Kitchen, Bookham Harrison Farms cheeses, Farmhouse Cookery cakes, Jude’s ice cream, The Tomato Stall, Olives et Al, Wilton Wholefoods, Thatcher’s Cider and Crusty Cob artisan bakers.