Co-op has announced plans to put ethical sourcing at the heart of its stores

Co-op has announced plans to put ethical sourcing at the heart of its new strategy to regrow and transform its business.The retailer has targeted becoming ’the number one convenience retailer’ and said it will concentrate on provenance rather than engaging in a price war.

Speaking at Co-op’s first farming conference, Ciara Gorst, senior agricultural manager, said: “British products are the staple of our stores. “We have already invested £781 million into sourcing British products, far more than any other convenience retailer.” The chain said it planned to keep expanding current farming groups and will launch a dedicated turkey group in December.

Matt Hood, director for fresh and frozen, said the new campaigns would put the emphasis on transparency. “Too many retailers are confusing consumers so they have to read the small print,” he said. “Our vision is about having a consistent message no-one can argue with.” It also plans to bring the retailer into ‘the centre of communities’ and Mr Hood said it would be sourcing products from local and regional producers. He said the industry had gone full circle from locality to mass-produced and consumers were now becoming more discerning. He also emphasised the firm would not be dropping its commitments when markets changed. “If we wanted to chase margins, we would have done it differently. We are driving customer value for money not the lowest price,” added Mr Hood.

“Farmers have to help us to make it work so no other retailer can say Co-op tried to do British lamb all-year-round but it did not work and refuse to do it themselves.” Mrs Gorst also looked at what impact Brexit could have on the industry and said she believed there would be new opportunities for agriculture once the UK leaves the EU. “Sometimes I think we do not look at the benefits we have of welfare and quality and we talk ourselves down,” she said. “There are actually huge opportunities in the UK to promote that and the rest will follow. “In the future, I hope we produce enough to feed the UK population and become self-sufficient.”

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