Morrisons seeks future Great British suppliers

Retailer Morrisons has announced it is searching for new domestic food producers to supply the supermarket chain. 

The Nations’s Local Foodmakers’ initiative comes in response to a report calling for the UK to be more self-sufficient in food production including consumer research showing a demand for more local produce. According to the report, commissioned by Morrisons and lead by Professor Tim Benton of the University of Leeds, only around half (52%) of food eaten in the UK comes from local farmers.

‘The Nations’s Local Foodmakers’ initiative will see 200 new suppliers from across England, Scotland and Wales recruited by Morrisons. Producers are now being invited to pitch to the supermarket via a series of 12 regional events, the first of which will take place in Yorkshire on 14 March.

It was highlighted that in light of politcal uncertainties, it makes more sense to rely on UK producers to supply local retailers.

The main issues that were outlined in the report are:

A risk in relying on produce from elsewhere in the world - The supermarket said that we now export £18 billion of food whilst we import £39 billion. The retailer believes that although Great Britain can not entirely be self-sufficient, buying more local food will help reduce these risks.

An appetite to buy local - Research from Morrisons claimed that more than two-thirds (67%) of UK shoppers prefer to buy British.

Wider benefits on the nation and countryside - By supporting local produce, the local economy will in turn be supoprted and maintain the agricultral sector and can result in more diverse foods, benefiting the countryside. It could potentially mean that local food is produced more efficiently and transparently.

The UK used to grow a wider range of crops - The report highlighted that the UK has seen a decline in indigenous produce grown. It was claimed that growing seasons for cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, parsnips, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumer, rhubarb and pears grown in the UK have decreased.

The search is on

Morrisons’ buyers team will now begin touring Great Britain in search of finding producers to supply its 491 stores nationwide to comply with its priority to source more local food. It is hoped that the search will result in more customers being able to buy more local food that has been grown, made, picked or packaged within 30-60 miles of their local store.

“Our customers tell us they want to see more food that is made just down the road from their own communities and that’s why we are looking for the next generation of British and local foodmakers to serve our 12 million customers,” said Andy Higginson, chairman of Morrisons.

“We want small UK food suppliers to become bigger ones - the Innocent Smoothies of tomorrow - and we also want to give our customers the option of more food that meets their local food tastes. Morrisons is already British farming’s biggest single customer and the publication of the report today from Professor Benton makes us more determined to produce more of our food and source from local British suppliers.

The retailer will also be working with members of Women’s Institutes in their communities to source and select the best suppliers in the area.

Potential suppliers can apply through a new website - www.morrisons.com/local - with selected applicants being invited to an event in their region where they will pitch their food in front of customers, Morrisons buyers and staff members, and Women’s Institute members.

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