Thursday 16th February 2012, 12:34 London
Justin King backs consumer education
Sainsbury's CEO tells 2012 City Food Lecture that consumers are demanding information on fresh produce cooking and preparation
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King has said the UK-based supermarket plans to do more to promote understanding of fruit and vegetables.
Speaking at the 2012 City Food Lecture at London’s Guildhall yesterday (Wednesday 15 February), King said Sainsbury’s had already set up six ‘food colleges’, with the next phase focusing on greengrocery to help shoppers understand how to cook and prepare fresh produce. “We are absolutely seeing the demand for that from our customers,” he said. “People are interested in cooking and turn to us to assist with that. It's coming.”
Stressing that most produce departments are now manned throughout the day with knowledgeable staff who understand fruit and veg, King said consumers nowadays wanted more information on cooking and preparation and supermarkets are well placed to help.
Staying on the theme of educating the public, King called for a return to home economic classes in school and teaching young people about provenance and cooking from an early age. People who cooked from scratch tended not to suffer from obesity, he added.
On the subject of supply chain relations King rejected the notion that promotions – which reached 40 per cent of all food sales in 2010 – were damaging to suppliers. “The point of promotions is that they are good for customers,” he said. “That’s what they want. The nature of successful businesses is to respond to the demands of customers. If, because of promotions, consumers buy more it will be of benefit to the producers.”
King also reiterated the fact that he did not support the introduction of a groceries code adjudicator, but stressed Sainsbury’s would respect and adhere to it once it is introduced. “It will be unique in interjecting constraints on business-to-business relationships,” he argued. “Ombudsmen normally only exist in monopolistic sectors where consumers need protecting. This one protects businesses from competition to the detriment of consumers. I object as a consumer to the idea that retailers will not be able to properly represent consumers in that relationship.”
Meanwhile King stressed that sustainability is a major issue for retailers, pointing out that while water might not be on consumers’ agenda, for Sainsbury’s it is a bigger concern than carbon.
He added that the water stress in southern Spain could forces prices unsustainably high in the next three decades, with the supermarket therefore exploring further supply avenues for products like citrus in areas not affected by drought, such as the Orange River in South Africa.