Shopping locally boosts East Anglian business
07:21 27 April 2012
Consumers in East Anglia are increasingly turning their backs on multi-national supermarkets and supporting local, independent stores and businesses.
Little Melton Gourmet Yoghurt
Little Melton Gourmet Yoghurt is one locally-made product which is now available in about 20 of the East of England Co-operative’s stores.
Mark Collins set up the factory last year and now supplies Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, and has just been selected to supply British Airways.
Mr Collins said customers liked that the gourmet yoghurt could be bought in the Co-op’s Onley Street store in Norwich, just 10 minutes’ drive from where it is made.
He said: “It’s been tough since we started, but then I don’t think it has been easy for anybody. The Co-op has definitely helped us by increasing our distribution through a range of stores in Norfolk and Suffolk.
“The team at the Co-op have been fantastic to deal with and helped grow awareness of our brand.
“We want to put Norfolk and Little Melton on the map and make it known for our product.”
Evidence suggests that shoppers are becoming more and more happy to support local outlets, such as convenience stores, farm shops, the Co-op and market stalls, when chosing where to buy their groceries.
And this is causing a double boost for East Anglian businesses, as many of the products being purchased are locally sourced.
Reasons given for people choosing to shop local, rather than rely on their nearest major supermarket, include:
a desire to support local firms and the local economy;
better quality produce;
more friendly and welcoming environment;
a desire to drive down food miles and save on petrol;
easier when choosing to do several shops a week, rather than just one ‘big shop’
feeling fed-up with the monopoly enjoyed by multi-national supermarkets.
The findings come as the East of England Co-operative Society is celebrating an “excellent” last financial year.
The largest independent retailer in East Anglia saw turnover go up by £0.8m to £353.3m, and reached its highest pre-tax profit in five years at £11.7m from £8.8m the year before.
The Co-op puts its success down to investing locally, and a possible desire by consumers feeling the pinch to invest in businesses, like theirs, which were rooted in the local community.
The company said recession-hit consumers were also tending towards more shopping trips more locally, and appeared to be less inclined towards a single “big shop” for the week – perhaps as a result of harder times.
It also put the positive results down to a focus on developing performance across the different business areas coupled with a keen eye on costs and a commitment to sourcing local produce.
Its “Sourced Locally” food sales have soared 37pc to £7.1m, and while that accounts for just 2.6pc of its food sales, it has spent more than £15m with 114 suppliers since 2007.
The company is aiming to increase its sales of local food to £8.2m in the next financial year and £10m the year after.
Kevin Warden, the Co-op’s local sourcing manager, said their policy was to source products within 30 miles of stores, although he said some products, such as Adnam’s beer and cider, are distributed more widely.
He said some products, such as Mojo Sauce from Gorleston’s Guancheros Sauce Company, were only available in one or two stores, and the Co-op was also accommodating of requests from suppliers if they do not want to be stocked in certain Co-ops, for example if their foods were already stocked in other independent stores or farm shops in the same area.
He said: “People want to buy local food and they want to know where it comes from.
“Our strawberries int he summer are picked in the field at five o’clock in the morning and could be in that store by nine o’clock.
“Raspberries, Victoria plums, sweetcorn for the first time this year, runner beans and asparagus - they are all picked to order and go straight from the farm to the store. We don’t send them to a warehouse.”
Martin Lake, of the Mid Norfolk Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and member of Buy Local Norfolk, said: “Our members, particularly restaurants, say that their clients are keen to know where their food has come from, and even the farm it has come from in some cases.
“I think more and more people are concerned about where their food comes from and what it contains, especially when they are feeding their children.
“Buy Local Norfolk gives a brand to local companies so that consumers can make an informed choice to support the local economy and I do think that more people want to do that.”
The news comes as the emerging findings from new research show that independent shops in Norwich support 150 small scale suppliers within 30 miles of the city and account for £3.5m of sales of locally-produced food and support more than 1,000 jobs in the supply chain.
Earlier this month supermarket chain Tesco announced its first decline in UK profits in more than 20 years.
The EDP has been encouraging people to support their local businesses as part of it’s long-running Shop Here campaign.