The retailer announced the five-point small business plan on Thursday (November 17) to “foster closer relationships” with its local suppliers. Co-op also promised to share technical and practical expertise with small suppliers, and to avoid expensive audits.
Backing British produce was a “cornerstone” of the firm’s food strategy, it said. The company’s retail chief executive Steve Murrells said that customers prize local produce, and increasing its number of local suppliers was important to delivering what the consumer wants.
‘Working with more small suppliers’
“We know our customers care about the provenance of their food and are keen to champion British products wherever they can,” said Murrells. “As a community retailer we want to make a difference in the communities we serve, working with more small suppliers who produce locally loved products to give great British food pride of place on our shelves.”
But, the company said it wouldn’t seek exclusivity from small businesses to help them grow. It also said it would “build long-term relationships with suppliers and growers, offering greater certainty and stability while championing local suppliers”, as part of its five-point plan.
Food and farming minister George Eustice welcomed the local supplier initiative.
‘More than £22bn a year’
“From family-owned microbreweries to local vegetable suppliers, small businesses are the heart of our food and drink industry,” said Eustice. “They are also at the heart of the UK economy, with small and medium food and drink manufacturers generating more than £22bn a year and employing over 127,000 people.
“It is great to see a major retailer like the Co-op supporting local suppliers and producers, bringing a real boost to communities around the country.”
Small suppliers were made to wait an average of 106 days longer to be paid by Tesco than it set out in its standard terms and conditions, according to a report by financial technology firm Ormsby Street published on November 14. Retailers Sainsbury and Morrisons took 72 and 70 days longer respectively.
Meanwhile, the Co-operative Bank has revealed plans to cut 200 jobs, mainly in management and its head offices in Manchester. The bank said the cost reductions were “critical” to its recovery after almost collapsing in 2013.
Co-op five-point plan
- Double the amount of local suppliers
- Break down barriers to trading by sharing technical expertise and practical support
- Avoid any expensive and duplicate audits with a universal standard (Safe and Local Supplier Approval accreditation) for food production, legislation and labelling
- Not seek exclusivity to help small businesses grow
- Build long-term relationships with suppliers and growers