Morrisons said it plans to further its campaign to sign more local suppliers as demand for local produce increases.
The supermarket chain said as of last month, it had recruited over 200 new local suppliers, defined as being located within a 35-mile radius of a store, and listed 750 new products.
The move follows its announcement last year that it would aim to recruit 200 British suppliers in its first year.
It added that sales of local products had grown 50% in the past two years after it started tailoring its stores to regional tastes – selling Plumgarths sausages in its Cumbrian stores and Edinburgh Gin in Scotland.
It cited a YouGov survey for Morrisons, which found that the proportion of customers who prefer to buy British food products had increased to 68% over the last 12 months, with 48% of these expecting British foods to be fresher.
Rebecca Singleston, Morrisons local solutions director, said with so many customers continuing to say they prefer to buy British, Morrisons would commence its next search for local suppliers in April.
“Customers are telling us they want to buy British and buy food that is made near their communities – they believe it will be fresher and that they will be supporting their local farmers and businesses,” she said.
“These 200 food makers will give many customers a local choice of food and drink and our plan is to find more this year.”
Meanwhile, Morrisons annouced its annual profits jumped 11%, making an underlying pre-tax profit of £374m in 2017-18, £37m higher than 2016-17. Revenue rose £1bn to £17.3bn - a 5.8% increase.
After revealing the strong annual results, Morrison’s chief executive David Potts said the move towards local suppliers reflected consumer demand rather than a direct response to Brexit.
“Customers perceive local to be fresher – two thirds of what we sell is British, so we’re in tune with that idea, even before we become very local,” he said.
He said Morrison’s local supplier campaign would help the supermarket stand out from its rivals.
“All of our strawberries in season are British, but if strawberries are being grown in Garforth, where we have a store down the road, we can sell ‘picked today, sold today’ Garforth strawberries and people see this as important,” he said.
“This business need to have less national duplication of merchandise and it has to have more local merchandise as we become truly integrated locally in the years ahead. It sits very nicely with society’s view that enough is enough on plastic and that food waste is excessive.”
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