MORRISONS IS to champion local producers and farmers with trials to assess how much customers want to buy local produce at a time when prices of imported goods are expected to rise following the collapse in sterling.
The Bradford-based supermarket chain said that local sourcing and buying British will help both its local suppliers and help keep the price down for customers.
Morrisons conducted a survey of its customers to ask them about their attitudes to locally grown produce and found that 85 per cent like to “buy local” to reduce food miles and carbon emissions.
More than nine out of 10 (92 per cent) think shorter transportation results in a fresher product and there is strong support for British farmers among Morrisons customers, with 84 per cent saying they prefer their supermarket fruit and vegetables to be grown in Britain and an overwhelming 95 per cent want to support British produce growers.
A spokesman for Morrisons said: “We listened to customers and are using trials to help us understand the logistics of stores working directly with local growers.
“The trials will also test whether customers prefer local produce when given the choice in a real supermarket.”
As part of the trial, growers will deliver their crop of the day straight from the farm to the store.
The first trial was over the summer with six stores receiving fresh strawberries over a nine week period.
The Morrisons store in the West Yorkshire market town of Rothwell was part of the strawberry trial and took deliveries from Garforth-based grower Makins Soft Fruit, which is sited just 11 miles from the store.
Eight stores around Norfolk and Kent are currently taking part in an apple trial where they have been paired with growers within 15 miles of the store, which means that customers can buy apples within 12 hours of them being picked in the orchard.
A Morrisons spokesman said: “Normally, apples travel hundreds of miles through packing plants and depots to be graded, packed and finally delivered back to customers.”
Morrisons will still source apples from outside the local area so it can gauge what customers want to buy.
Deliveries of local produce are clearly marked in store so customers can find out the variety, picking date and which farm the crops are from.
Morrisons said that if the trials are successful, it could lead to a change in how it sources some of its products.
The supermarket said the trials have been well received by stores and customers alike and initial sales look promising.
A spokesman for Morrisons said: “Customers have told us that they want to support local growers so we wanted to see how they responded to being able to buy fruit that is from a few miles away when they also have a choice of buying fruit that is from the across the UK and the world.”
The trial comes at a time when imports are getting more expensive following the collapse in the pound, which means a win-win situation for Morrisons’ customers and suppliers.
UK supermarkets import around 40 per cent of their fresh food and the pound has dropped nearly 20 per cent against the dollar since the vote to leave the EU, making imports a lot more expensive.
Earlier this month, Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco and one of its biggest suppliers Unilever became locked in a high-profile Mexican stand-off over a potential 10 per cent price hike on products including Marmite and Persil, linked to the collapse in sterling.
Unilever later said the dispute had been resolved, but warned that consumers would still have to stomach more price pain in the new year.