Jason Tanner, Managing Director of The Menu Partners, read with interest a report published by the Oxford Farming Conference in January entitled ‘Is Our UK Food Supply Chain Broken?’.
“While the report makes many useful and accurate points about the challenges facing the food supply chain feeding into the UK supermarkets,” said Jason, “it ignores virtually every other part of the chain, including wholesale markets, which do not get one mention.
“The report would suggest that the supermarket buying model (particularly the damaging one-way relationship supermarket buyers are said to have with their grower suppliers) is very broken. Foodservice and exports get a throwaway mention as alternative sales channels, but there is no meaningful comparison made with selling to the UK supermarkets.
“I also listened to the podcast released in December to promote the report. Wholesale markets were simplistically painted as the places where growers sell product they can’t sell to supermarkets. That may be the case for some growers, but wholesalers in markets around the country have fantastic relationships with growers and consistently the feedback we receive from growers who take our sector seriously is that they find working with us easier, more transparent and often more profitable.”
In London alone, the fruit and vegetable wholesale market sector is worth more than £1.5 billion, supplying the foodservice, hospitality and independent retail sectors throughout the capital, the Home Counties and the South East of England. “That’s a big chunk of the supply chain to ignore,” Jason added. “The supermarkets do not represent the whole chain; they operate differently to every other part of the chain and their impact on the potential profitability and sustainability of their suppliers is much more intense.”