United under a single banner

LOCAL producers were out in force yesterday as the East of England Co-operative underlined its commitment to supporting them by launching a new brand.

The new ‘Sourced Locally’ label, unveiled yesterday at a large gathering of 80 of its local suppliers in Ipswich, is aimed at complementing rather than replacing individual producers’ own branding.

The Ipswich-based chain, which is the largest independent retailer in East Anglia and has more than 200 trading outlets spread across 70 towns and villages, says its local sourcing initiative is putting more local products on its supermarket and food store shelves than ever before.

The society is currently working with 95 the region’s food and drink producers of all sizes to ensure its customers can source a range of quality products from across East Anglia.

It says its range, and the demand from customers, is growing all the time.

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Special accreditation plaques were handed out at a Breakfast Briefing at Wherstead Park yesterday to celebrate the contribution local sourcing partners make to the society.

The event was also the platform for the official unveiling of its new ‘Sourced Locally’ branding, which will be rolled out to East of England Co-operative supermarket and food stores across the region bringing all local sourcing under one banner.

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Local food champion Lady Caroline Cranbrook joined around 80 local suppliers to mark the event.

The co-op’s local sourcing manager Kevin Warden said: “When we say local, we mean local. We put products into the store closest to the producer and this is often just a few miles, or in some cases a few yards, from our stores and where possible no more than a 30 mile radius.

“When fresh produce is available it can be picked, packed and in the customer’s shopping basket within a few hours.

“Our new ‘Sourced Locally’ branding will bring greater emphasis to our support for the region’s producers and highlight the wide range of products we have in store.”

One of the suppliers, Essex-based potato farmer Robert Strathern of Fairfields Farm, who also grows crops in Suffolk, said supplying to the co-op had helped to grow his potato crisp diversification.

“In 2009 we started supplying just three East of England Co-op stores. Now we supply our potatoes and crisps direct to stores across the whole of Suffolk and Essex,” he said.

“We are really pleased that our relationship with the East of England Co-op has proved so successful, and this has helped us to take on five new staff. It has proved very beneficial to our business as a whole, and secured jobs at a tough economic time.”

Another producer, pies and pastries maker Mark Bloss, of Hollybush Farm Produce, Buxall, near Stowmarket, praised the society’s efforts to support local producers.

“We are delighted to supply the East of England Co-operative, who share our values of great quality local food,” he said. “The society has become one of our biggest customers, which speaks volumes about the relationship we have with them.”

The society began its local sourcing initiative in 2007 with just a few suppliers. The number of suppliers and sales of their products and has grown year-on-year and this progress is expected to continue.

There are currently 95 local producers accredited by the society with more interested in linking up with their local co-operative.

To support its local producers it has drawn up a pledge to emphasize its commitment to local sourcing:

• To work with local producers to provide quality products and save food miles.

• To provide its members and customers with more choice by putting more local products on our shelves than ever before.

• To trade fairly and honestly with local producers.

• To generate sustainable revenue for local producers and the society.

• To fully vet suppliers to ensure that they meet its food safety criteria.

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