Co-op’s £1.5bn pledge supports British food firms

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Annual updates on its sourcing will be shared by the Co-operative
Annual updates on its sourcing will be shared by the Co-operative

Related tags National farmers union Supermarket Beef United kingdom

Further evidence of shoppers’ growing preference for British-produced food came last week in the form of a £1.5bn pledge to UK farmers from the Co-operative.

The commitment from the food retailer will last three years and followed new research claiming 90% of shoppers wanted supermarkets to sell more food from British farms.

More than 80% of farmers also said retailers should support UK farmers by selling only British meat and poultry, according to the Co-op’s Born and Bred report, which was released last week.

Exception to the rule

As a result, the Co-op pledged to favour British products for its own-label meat, poultry, produce and dairy. However, Danish bacon and New Zealand lamb would be an exception to the rule, it said.

It would also adopt a “totally transparent approach” ​to its marketing of UK food and release an annual report on its progress.

Co-op retail ceo Steve Murrells said trust in retailers had been dented in recent years. “We hope our openness about where we source our meat, poultry and produce will encourage more retailers to follow suit.”

Shoppers wanted to know more about the origin of their products and supermarkets had to make more of an effort to supply that information, he added.

Urged others to follow

The retailer’s commitment received praise from the environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, who urged other retailers to follow its lead. “It is a fantastic vote of confidence for the UK food and drink industry,” ​said Truss.

“We know British consumers value products from this country, which have a world-renowned reputation for their high-quality and traceability.”

The transparency of the commitment would give consumers and farmers confidence in the retailer, said National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond.

“The report will allow consumers and farmers to monitor the Co-op’s performance against its sourcing commitments on an annual basis … this is of paramount importance to help instil confidence in consumers and producers alike,” ​he said.

As part of the pledge, the Co-op will:

  • Invest £1.5bn into sourcing British meat, produce and dairy products
  • Commit to openness and transparency
  • Produce an annual report on its progress
  • Market British product honestly and clearly
  • Provide 100% fresh British beef, chicken, ham, pork, sausages, duck, turkey and support British lamb when it’s in season
  • Offer 100% British milk only

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