Sainsbury's talks tactics with suppliers

Sainsbury's is looking to break down communication barriers with its meat suppliers with the launch of a series of special meetings.

The retailer held a "national" meeting at its head office in London last week with a cross-section of its regional beef farmers.

The inaugural meeting is part of a move to improve both relations and understanding of industry issues between the retailer and its suppliers.

Discussions focused around further use of older beef, whole carcase utilisation, imports, exports and the future of supplies, including contracts.

The one-day event was organised by Anglo Beef Processors (ABP), chief beef supplier to Sainsbury's, and brought together farmers from Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.

Sainsbury's said the meeting was a culmination of a series of similar events which have been taking place in the regions over the last 12 months. Following the meeting, farmers were taken to Sainsbury's kitchens for an informal blind tasting session, in which they were invited to sample beef from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland before naming their favourite.

While many of the farmers managed to choose their own beef, there were a few who rated other regions above their own. Sainsbury's said the evening was part of an ongoing process, which will see representatives from Sainsbury's meeting farmers from around the UK once a year centrally and twice a year in the regions. It aims to create a continued dialogue for both the beef farming community and Sainsbury's, to allow a better understanding of the supply chain.

Karen Schenstrom, Sainsbury's business unit director, said: "Meeting with our key suppliers and farmers is very important to us as a business, as it helps us to build a better understanding of how they work and the steps we might be able to take to build a mutually beneficial partnership.

"The topics covered were particularly important as the UK farming industry has changed a great deal in the past few years. It is fundamental that Sainsbury's is able to understand the current pressures facing beef farmers and it is also valuable for us to update farmers on our business, the retail market, and any trends or changes to consumer habits," she said.

The move builds on the work the retailer began six years ago with its 1,400 producers supplying ABP's Ellesmere facility, who supply beef for Sainsbury's Taste the Difference and Jamie Oliver premium beef ranges. However, it said that the event last week was the first time all Sainsbury's beef suppliers have been involved in such discussions.

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