2003 Results

Local economies module commentary

It is evident that this area is still in an early phase of development. Judging by their questionnaire responses the participating retailers seem aware that this is an area of growing interest and concern to some of their shoppers. However this is perceived as mainly of interest in areas with a traditionally strong regional and local identity such as Scotland, Northern Ireland, parts of Wales, northern England, South-West England, island localities and rural areas in general.

There is a tendency to avoid taking a proactive stance on this issue by the retail sector, as demonstrated by the fact that some do not yet have a written corporate policy on sourcing local and locality foods. Most also do not have set targets for the percentages of local foods that they aim to stock throughout their stores. Most multiple retailers claim to be stocking increased or increasing numbers of local and locality food lines, however they say that they are not recording systematic data on their own performance on this type of sourcing. None can provide accurate overall figures on the percentages of their food lines that are sourced and sold as local or locality foods. The one retailer that did provide guideline figures revealed that the proportions of local and locality foods stocked is very low relative to overall food lines stocked – less than 5% for local food and less than 10% for locality foods. In general the focus is more on stocking UK or British foods, rather than on defining local as foods sourced from within a 30 mile radius of a store, or even from within the region in which the store is located. Most retailers seem to have clear policies on buying UK First, however again they do not tend to go as far as setting targets on this. There is a tendency for the sector to perceive its role as supplying what consumers 'want' rather than trying to educate and guide consumer preferences towards food sourcing that supports the UK's local and regional economies as well as providing good and appealing food for consumers.


In terms of actual performance, the results from the Local Food Store Survey indicate that none of the retailers have ensured that their customer service staff are briefed on this issue. When 'mystery shoppers' asked customer service staff for information about local foods available in their stores, the overwhelming response from all retailers was that no information was available, or customer services simply 'didn't know'. Occasionally shoppers were told that the lack of information on local food in the store was because 'no local food is stocked, as it is all delivered to and from a central depot'.

In terms of actual stocking, overall very few apples were sourced from the UK, let alone from local areas or UK regions. The timing of the first phase of the survey was in July and August, before the UK apple season gets into full swing, which partly explains this. Potatoes scored rather better, with many stores around the country stocking several locality varieties, labelled with their various counties of origin. However very few were local to the store in which they were sold. Milk tended to be UK or British sourced, although the stores of some retailers did stock a few varieties of milk that named a locality of origin; quite often this included a goat's milk. Fresh lamb and beef stocked in stores tended to be all labelled the same – either all UK/British, or all from just one broad locality such as Scotland, Ireland or Wales. Occasionally two or three locality beef or lamb cuts would be in stock. Local meat was only very rarely encountered by surveyors. As for cheeses, these scored highest as most retailers' stores do stock several cheeses from around the UK, with an identifiable locality of origin. Some also stocked a few local cheeses.

However, the overall findings demonstrate a very low general rate of local sourcing, and a somewhat higher but still low level of locality food sourcing, by the ten retailers. Only a tiny number of stores showed any evidence of local food 'promotion' such as point of sale advertising, sampling stands or local food information leaflets.

Store survey results for non-participating supermarkets

Sustain press release


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