East of England Co-operative - Sourced Locally

The Asda Enterprise Growth Award, Winner, 2015

The East of England Co-operative has built partnerships with 140 local suppliers, supporting the local economy, reducing food miles and achieving a £15 million turnover in 2014.

What the judges thought

  • This programme is the very definition of local fair trade: fair trade for local producers who in turn are fair employers.
  • This is an inspirational model with impacts at local level that can be replicated and scaled.
  • A culture that emphasises the importance of relationships is embedded across the whole company.

Social and business impacts

  • Has created or safeguarded more than 300 jobs across the region.
  • £34 million has been ploughed back into the local economy through payments to suppliers.
  • In 2014 Deli To Go was introduced in more than 30 stores, supplying 100% local produce, boosting sales and reducing waste.
  • Sourced Locally turnover in 2014 reached almost £15 million, a 21% uplift on 2013.

Green co-op logoIn brief

Inspirational project Sourced Locally has secured the livelihoods of hundreds of small food businesses and farmers, creating jobs and ploughing millions of pounds into the local economy.

The deceptively simple programme buys locally sourced food products at scale directly from small producers, providing them with a new route to market through East of England Cooperative stores. This has created genuine partnerships with suppliers, many of whom had been struggling to survive.

Sourced Locally has been a resounding business success, helping the retailer achieve an additional £15 million turnover last year and giving suppliers the chance to reach more customers with fresh, locally sourced foods.

The story in detail

The East of England Co-operative stood out because of their passion, uniqueness and engagement, which clearly runs through the business, to deliver strong and sustainable local communities from which the SME supply side is fully benefiting.

- Allan Edwards,
Senior Director, Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, Asda, Chair of judges
Sourced Locally was launched in 2007 to source products directly from local suppliers across the East of England Co-operative’s trading area of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. It is based on building long-term partnerships with these suppliers and reconnecting customers with food provenance by selling fresh, locally-sourced produce.

Local partnerships tackling food waste

The scheme has reinvested £34 million back into the local economy through payments to suppliers and has put more than 2,750 local products on East of England Co-op shelves (an increase of around 500 products in the last year).

Most products are delivered by producers direct to stores, rather than using a distribution centre. A dedicated Sourced Locally team works with producers, aiming to match their produce to stores within a 30 mile radius of their operation. This not only increases the number of producers that are able to be involved, but reduces food miles and waste, as deliveries can be made as required. The scheme also enables producers to team up on deliveries.

The support and business opportunities offered to Sourced Locally suppliers have helped them stay in business, protected and created jobs and supported the local economy.

Growing sales for 'Sourced Locally' products

A 2013/2014 supplier survey confirmed that three-quarters of the producers believed the scheme had positively impacted on their financial performance. For three out of five, it had also helped them to secure existing jobs. Among those who had taken on new employees, an average of three new jobs per supplier had been created as a result of the scheme.

Since its launch, Sourced Locally has provided a point of difference for the retailer by encouraging new consumers, who are specifically interested in buying local produce, into its stores. Between January 2014 and January 2015, Sourced Locally sales grew by 21%.

In 2014, Deli To Go was introduced in over 30 stores, supplying 100% local produce. The impacts of this £600,000 investment were a sales uplift of 14%, an average increase in basket spend of 13% and reduced waste.

As well as boosting sales, Sourced Locally has supported the Co-op’s reputation as a local, ethical and responsible independent retailer. Its success is based on creating a profit for the supplier, a profit for the Co-op and providing produce at a realistic price for the customer.

What the East of England Co-operative's Executive Officer said

“With Sourced Locally we celebrate local food in our stores every day, bringing locally produced food and drink direct from over 140 farmers and producers to the shelves of our stores and ploughing those profits back into the local economy. We have saved food miles, cut down on waste, encouraged local suppliers to work together, launched ‘Deli to Go’ which offers 100% locally supplied deli products and created new outlets for local businesses.

“We believe every encouragement should be given to those who work so hard and with such passion and dedication to bring great tasting food and drink to our tables." - Roger Grosvenor, Executive Officer – Retail