Southern Co-op study shows demand rises for locally produced products

Shoppers are reducing their carbon footprint by buying 40% more local products from a regional co-operative than five years ago.

The figures have been released by Southern Co-op as it celebrates a milestone anniversary for its local food and drink range - 15 years of Local Flavours.

To mark the occasion, the Local Flavours team will be visiting a number of its regional producers to recognise the hard work which has gone into making this possible. The visits kicked off last week with Kent Crisps (team pictured) and Cook.

Southern Co-op started working with Kent Crisps at the end of 2014 and it has since become an internationally recognised British brand.

Laura Bounds MBE, owner of award-winning brand Kent Crisps, (pictured centre), said, 'Southern Co-op has been critical to my business. In the early days, it was Southern Co-op believing in our brand and quickly growing our store count which meant we were able to expand much quicker. We are historically grateful for the support over the years.

'Southern Co-op has the best local team that I have ever come across. That has a lot to do with the support they show local suppliers. They have always loved doing what they do. They totally believe in what they are doing and that's important.

'Southern Co-op gives local brands the opportunity of new exposure in new areas and leads the way with its unique vision. The celebration of 15 years is significant as in that time they have really made a difference to a lot of people.'

Southern Co-op's Local Flavours range was first introduced in 2007 on the Isle of Wight and supports farmers and producers, bringing the best local food and drink from across southern England to its convenience stores.

It currently includes around 2,000 products from more than 200 suppliers.

In 2021, there were more than 3.5 million products sold from its Local Flavours range, a 40% increase from just over 2.5 million in 2017.

Matt Elliott, Southern Co-op's Retail Buying & Services Manager, who looks after the Local Flavours range, said, 'Southern Co-op's enthusiasm for local food and drink comes from the amazing flavours, the dedicated people behind the products, and the benefits to the environment.

'As an independent, regional co-operative, we strive to be a sustainable and responsible business and our Local Flavours range is just one way in which we achieve this. Over the last 15 years, we have developed some incredible relationships with our Local Flavours producers and discovered hidden talent which has gone on to be stocked on shelves nationwide.'

Every county where Southern Co-op trades has a bespoke Local Flavours range which may include cheeses, yogurts, cream, ice cream, cakes and baked goods, sandwiches, meat, fish or beer.

On the Isle of Wight, Southern Co-op's partnership with Briddlesford Farm Dairy has provided local retail outlets for products from their pedigree Guernsey cows after it became unsustainable for it to be shipped off the island.

Paul Griffin, the fourth generation of the Griffin family to run the farm, said: 'Working with Southern Co-op has meant a lot to us at Briddlesford Lodge Farm. Southern Co-op could see the quality and provenance of our products and were able to offer us access to a much wider customer base, through their many stores.

'This was a big step up for Briddlesford, and eventually enabled us to significantly expand this aspect of our business. It gave us confidence to work with larger customers and in turn, this has helped to preserve our family farm, and our iconic dairy herd on the Isle of Wight.
'Southern Co-op is unlike other supermarkets because it has maintained a ‘village' type appeal, with a friendly approach to its local suppliers, and to its customers.

'The ‘Local Flavours' aspect of their business has benefitted many smaller farmers and suppliers, but also enabled local people to support their local economy and the local businesses that allow their communities to thrive.'