Since launching the campaign last weekend, Wyke Farms md Richard Clothier told FoodManufacture.co.uk the firm's Facebook 'likes' had risen from 5,000 to more than 7,000 in just a few days.
“This shows that people feel strongly about retailers flexing their muscles,” he said.
The campaign invites supporters to ask Morrisons’ staff in local stores to retain Wyke Farm products. The retailer has told the cheese maker that it will no longer stock its cheeses from mid-September.
“Up until about May everything was going fantastically well with Morrisons,” said Clothier. “The retailer told us it wanted to continue working with us after working together for about eight years.”
But in mid-June – as part of its supplier review revealed exclusively by FoodManufacture.co.uk – Morrisons told the firm it wished to work with fewer brands. The supermarket invited Wyke Farms and other suppliers to tender for business. This was followed by a blind tender that “invited” suppliers to invest money up front.
It was after the blind tender that the cheese maker was told Morrisons would delist Wyke Farms and discontinue the 40,000 units a week sold from its stores.
Since the delisting Morrisons’ management team has proved illusive and apparently reluctant to agree to a meeting.
Financial arm wrestling
“I was very disappointed by the way Morrisons treated us,” said Clothier. “We are a family business from Somerset – not the Irish Dairy Board or Dairy Crest. When it comes to financial arm wrestling, we are never going to win.”
Clothier launched the Facebook campaign to express his frustration, to persuade the retailer to reconsider and to highlight the importance of shopper choice.
“I’m realistic: I can’t expect Morrisons to go back on its decision but I would like it to relist us in April.
“Also, I don’t want to knock Morrisons or its staff, who work with us. But I would like them to understand that not all brands are equal. There is a genuine need for brands like Wyke Farms because they extend shoppers’ choice.”
Twitter users have been invited to support the campaign by using the hash tag #keepwykeinmorrisons and to post the message Keep Wyke Farms in! at @MorrisonsOffers.
A Morrisons spokesman said: "We took the decision to remove the Wyke Farm brand following an extensive category review of all of our pre-packed cheese. Feedback from customers was that there was a lot of duplication in our range and we are consequently trying to simplify it.
"The decision was also formed by our desire to have more of an own-brand offering ahead of our category re-launch in September."
Major retailers such as Sainsbury, Asda and Co-op (but not Tesco) will continue to stock Wyke Farms cheese.
Facebook support for Wyke
- “Thank goodness we now have the internet. Who needs stupid companies like Mo… etc. Word by mouth and cheese by mouth is much more effective.” Jacky Flay
- “Love your cheeses. Keep Wyke Farms in Morrisons.” Harriet Rogers
- “Customers like the best cheese and Wyke Farms is the best! Please keep it in Morrisons.” Cindy Grimwood.