New Anglia LEP Conference: East of England Co-op expands local food range

THE East of England Co-operative Society is continuing to step-up its commitment to locally-sourced food and drink, delegates at the New Anglia LEP conference were told today.

The society, which hosted the event at its Wherstead Park headquarters outside Ipswich, already stocks local products from 118 accredited suppliers, including “own label” lines of locally-made or locally-packaged beer, eggs, chocolate and tea.

Kevin Warden, the society’s local sourcing manager, told delegates at the event that, from yesterday, four of its stores – in Aldeburgh, Leiston, Wickham Market and Framlingham – were now offering local milk, from Marybelle, based at Walpole, near Halesworth, with local preserves and fruit juices due to follow shortly.

Mr Warden said the society began sourcing locally in 2007 through regional food and drink group Tastes of Anglia and in 2011 launched its own “Sourced Locally is miles better” brand.

From turnover of �1million in 2008, local sales has increased to �7.1m in the year to January 2012 and were on course to top �8m this year.

Research among the society’s local suppliers indicated that more than 100 jobs had been created as a result of the local-sourcing initiative, with many more having been safeguarded, he added.

Delegates also heard from Doug Field, the society’s executive officer for finance and technology, who highlighted the Regional Investment Fund unveiled by the society earlier this year.

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The first investments in local firms should be announced by Christmas, he revealed.