UK: Asda celebrates 10 years with £1bn sales of local food

On the day that Asda celebrates its 10th year working with local suppliers, the retailer announces that is has clocked up £1bn of sales since it began working with local and ethnic suppliers in 2001.

The retailer’s ambitions aren’t going to stop there, with the plan in place to reach a £500m annual sales target by 2013.

This commitment will see Asda source even more regional meat, produce and speciality local food products, including dozens of cheeses, yoghurts, pickles, ice creams as well as books and football shirts – representing an increase of 15% in Asda’s annual sales of specialist local food.

The move comes after a long history of joint working with local suppliers that began in June 2001 when a small team was put together to start to explore local sourcing. In 2002, Sir Donald Curry, chairman of the Government’s Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, called on farmers and retailers to follow Asda’s lead at the launch of a pioneering partnership with local Cumbrian food park Plumgarths.

Local suppliers now work with Asda through a network of nine regional hubs, supporting local farmers and cottage industries to help small suppliers get ‘retail ready’, bringing new products to store and building their businesses to a potentially national scale. Hubs support producers through the Asda accreditation process and then offer ongoing technical and development assistance as well as the facility to deliver to the one central hub in their area; Asda allows producers to use large-scale buying ability to secure cheaper supplies, such as packaging, and group with other producers to purchase raw ingredients in bulk.

There are now 30 team members in the emerging markets team, with one of the buyers recently being recognised as Asian businesswoman of the year for her commitment to the development of small suppliers. And the success speaks for itself, with 200 individual quality awards already banked in 2011, adding to the hundreds of awards won since the team’s inception in 2001.

As well as products on the shelves, Asda has also brought “local to life on the shop floor” by bringing the local experts into its stores. In Northern Ireland, the retailer replaced each of its 13 meat counters with local Dungannon-based butchery concession McGee’s. The first counter was installed at Asda Westwood, Belfast, in 2009, and reported a 900% sales increase in the first four weeks. Unsurprisingly the counters were quickly rolled out to all but two of Asda’s Northern Irish stores. Asda has made similar changes to counters in other regions, with a Riddlers fish counter roll out in South-West England and halal counters in three of its stores.

CJ Antal-Smith, category director on emerging markets, said: “We’re really proud that we’ve built our local business from a standing start to a £1bn success story. And we’re not stopping there; looking ahead our plans are more than ambitious.

“We’re working with the some of the smallest UK suppliers to give them the opportunity to grow their business, and at the same time increase the amount of local and ethnic products available to our customers – proving that big stores can do local in a big way.”