People are increasingly on the lookout to buy locally sourced food and drink. Rich Airey focuses on a successful attempt to provide customers with a local option for their baskets and at the same time help regional producers build their businesses.

It may be easy to label your store ‘local’ in the sense that you’re serving your immediate community, but just how far does the term stretch for you? Customers are becoming more and more interested in buying locally sourced food products and stores across the country are slowly beginning to reap the benefits.

Budgens has been very proactive in sourcing local produce. It first dabbled in March 2004 when it teamed up with a group of independent local producers under the umbrella ‘Tastes of Anglia’. The partnership was so successful that Budgens next approached A Taste of Sussex to supply its Midhurst store.

One year on from the launch and with British Food Fortnight fast approaching, (September 24 - October 9), A Taste of Sussex is going from strength to strength. It’s now been rolled out to seven further Budgens stores in Sussex and a number across London. The company is set to reinforce its commitment to local sourcing with Taste of the West and East Midlands Fine Foods lined up to supply stores in their own regions.
Budgens has highlighted its commitment to a local policy in the past by sponsoring British Food
Fortnight and through its annual Taste of the West Awards. Midhurst store manager of 10 years, Steve Mew, is delighted his customers are such fans of the Taste of Sussex range.

“To say it has taken off well would be an understatement,” says Steve. “It surprised me quite how successful it has been. Customers love the fact they can identify where a product is from by recognising the name of a certain village or local company. This has certainly been the case with the fresh food lines, as customers can see the sausages, bacon and cheeses are from the Chichester area. Other ranges include local pickles, jams, cakes, cheeses, beer and wine. It’s the kind of range you might usually find in farm shops, farmers’ markets or small cafes.

“We stock around 130 lines and with a review coming up this month, this is likely to expand. We displayed the range on its own to start with but because the sales were so good we ran out of space and had to take some items out and integrate them alongside other lines. On current form, it definitely looks like something that will grow and grow. In a typical week we make £3,500 just on A Taste of Sussex sales.”

A classic example of the success of the initiative is the expansion of the home-made cakes range, More. The selection has grown dramatically from nine lines to more than 40 in just one year. In the first week of the new range appearing in the store, £600-worth of the More cakes had been snapped up. The extra demand has had a positive effect on the business itself, which has developed from a family concern of three to a thriving company with a large team of workers.

Steve is a big fan of the close contact he now has with local producers - something that’s not usually an option with the big multinational companies.
“Products can be adapted for us very quickly so that interest is maintained. Communication is quick and constant. With multinational firms it’s very much buyer to buyer rather than producer to store manager to customer.

“If a customer asks if we can get something locally, A Taste of Sussex can investigate for us. It’s something we’ve not really had before. Usually we’ll stock products through a warehouse and mostly controlled centrally through buyers.”

Steve is adamant that stocking the local produce has not had a negative effect on similar non-local lines. “The customer will identify with something local and it’ll be an extra item to what would usually be in their shopping basket. It very much starts as an impulse and if the product is good - which they all are - customers will add that item to their usual shop.”

Price has not put customers off either, as Steve explains: “People accept the fact that it may be a premium-priced product but because it’s local, that tends to offset the doubts they have about buying it.”
A Taste of Sussex co-ordinator Hilary Knight has seen small producers benefit greatly over the last year. “We were set up in 2004 to support local producers and were originally part of Taste of the South East. Budgens was a real opportunity and our partnership has been extremely successful. We now have 22 producers, all of which can supply more lines because of the increased demand. The whole project has been fantastic and has opened up other markets for our producers. I’m sure that it’s also exceeded Budgens’ expectations,” she says.

Tastes of Anglia has received a similar thumbs-up from managers in its region. Aylsham Budgens boss, Roger Bumphrey, has stocked the range for 14 months and says: “It’s been really interesting and items such as the fresh food section and the ciders have really taken off. The key thing is that it’s giving the local producers a much wider market. We’re building the range all the time, and by putting the smaller companies’ products on the shelves we gain area identity. We’re very community-based and the range emphasises that.”


Further information on sourcing local food is available online at: