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"We will continue to support you" - Supermarket tells NPA

by 5m Editor
4 May 2004, at 12:00am

UK - "We will not be complacent and British meat will remain an important factor to us as we strive to offer the best in quality and value to our customers," says the Co-op in a letter to PorkWatch chairman Richard Lister.

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Chief retail operating officer Malcolm Hepworth says he is pleased to see the Co-op performed above average in all sectors - pork, bacon and ham - of the first PorkWatch survey, which was published last month.

Yorkshire producer Richard Lister wrote to leading retailers to tell them how they performed in the survey and, where appropriate, to urge them to do better.

In its response, the Co-op raises the question of availability and urges the British pig industry to improve the supply of British pork. Malcolm Hepworth says it is of great concern to the Co-op, which is Britain's biggest farmer, that British producers can currently supply only 62 percent net of the market, and therefore some imports are inevitable.

Marks and Spencer

For its part, Marks and Spencer has told Richard Lister, "It was great to see from the results of your latest piece of research that we are, indeed, achieving our objective of being one of British agriculture's strongest supporters as this is clearly what our customers are also very committed to."

The PorkWatch survey highlighted the fact that M&S stock nearly 100 percent fresh British pork, but do not use the Quality Standard Mark.

When he wrote to M&S to tell them of their good performance in the first PorkWatch survey, Richard Lister highlighted this fact. "At a time when we are having a measure of success in persuading other retailers to increase their use of the Quality Standard Mark, the continued absence of the Mark in M&S stores is both disappointing and puzzling. Indeed, it defies logic."

He reminded M&S there will be a significant campaign later this year to promote the Quality Standard Mark to consumers.

"Research shows that consumers do want to know about country of origin and the Quality Standard Mark enables them to make informed choices at point of purchase which take into account the investment and commitment British farmers have made in animal welfare, quality assurance and food safety standards."

But in his reply M&S head of agriculture Paul Willgoss gives short shrift to any hopes the company might be about to change its policy on the Quality Standard Mark.

He agrees customers are interested in country of origin, as well as how products are produced and standards maintained but says customers know M&S applies the highest standards of assurance, welfare, food safety and environmental care.

The company's decision not to use any quality assurance logos on any products was taken several years ago "in response to customer confusion over the widespread use of logos and their meaning." This stance, he says, is not about the Quality Standard Mark in particular, but is corporate policy and applies to all such marks.

Waitrose

Waitrose is another company that sells nearly 100 percent British pork but does not use the Quality Standard Mark. "Why not?" asked Richard Lister when he informed it of its strong showing in the April PorkWatch survey.

In reply, Heather Jenkins, Waitrose central buyer for meat, poultry and fish, says the quantity of British product in store is perhaps more important than the presence of the Quality Standard Mark. "Whilst the Quality Standard Mark is applied by some retailers it may only be a very small proportion of the total available product."

She agrees with Richard Lister that country of origin is important. "We clearly identify all our red meat with 'British' as well as describe the care we take with our producers to ensure high standards of animal welfare."

Like M&S, Waitrose claims additional labels, such as the Quality Standard Mark, can cause customer confusion.

"Our supply chain for pork is vertically integrated and we set our own standards in conjunction with our suppliers, which we intend should exceed those required by most retailers. We have consistently developed our procurement strategy to secure British raw material and this has been the result of many years' work and financial support during crisis years for our producers."

Source: National Pig Association PorkWatch - 4th May 2004

5m Editor