Supermarket Co-op has launched a new small business charter, committing the chain to doubling the number of smaller local producers that supply to its stores, it has been announced.
The “Backing British” charter sets out five principles that Co-op claimed would change the way that the supermarket sources produce by “fostering closer relationships and support” for local suppliers.
The key aims set out in the charter are to build sustainable long-term relationships with local suppliers and produce growers, and to deliver practical advice and support for small businesses to create better market access.
The supermarket also stated it would not “seek exclusivity” in its supplier relationships – an arrangement that can create barriers to growth for small firms, as it shuts off other avenues of income by keeping products out of competitor stores.
In a statement, Co-op retail chief executive, Steve Murrells, said that the move to work with a total of 1,200 small suppliers by the end of 2017 reflected a public desire to see “prized local products” on the shelves of UK supermarkets.
“We know our customers care about the provenance of their food and are keen to champion British products wherever they can,” he said.
Murrels added that the supermarket remained committed to giving “great British food pride of place on our shelves”.
Commenting on the announcement, government food minister George Eustice agreed that the charter would bring “a real boost to communities around the country”, acknowledging the value of local producers to economic growth.
“From family-owned microbreweries to local vegetable suppliers, small businesses are the heart of our food and drink industry. 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,” he said in a statement.
The charter may help give Co-op a name as a supporter of small business, leaving others to gain a negative reputation among suppliers and customers – the chain recently avoided inclusion into a list of the 20 worst UK retailers for paying smaller suppliers on time.
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