Sainsbury’s is aiming for “fewer and longer-term relationships” through its ongoing supplier restructure and shift towards direct to grower models.
The retailer began the major overhaul earlier this year, as reported by FPJ, starting with fruit and moving into potatoes and other products.
Speaking at last week’s Farming Conference, Sainsbury’s director of brand Judith Batchelar told FPJ: “As a general theme, what we’re trying to build is fewer, more strategic long-term relationships.”
Batchelar said Sainsbury’s supplier review is different to what has been undertaken by its competitors. “While our competitors will have been buying their own packaging facilities and performing that part in the value chain themselves, the way we’ve looked at it is much more direct relationships with growers,” she said.
“Citrus is a good example in Spain where we are working directly with, eventually fewer growers, but working directly with them. So we’ve got those relationships where we share data, share information, and drive the efficiencies that we want to see.
“When the value chain isn’t joined up in that way, it drives inefficiencies in the chain. We’ve been looking at it category by category. We’ve done a lot of work on citrus and that’s happening now. Other categories, like potatoes, are being looked at now. We started off in fruit and have been guided by the seasons.”
The retailer has added to its agriculture team during the year, many of whom gave case studies about their categories during the conference.
Product manager Sarah Blandford spoke about a three-year project with Greenvale to improve production efficiency in potatoes.
“We had four times as many potato growers as we needed for our 52-week supply requirements. We had some fantastic growers and we had some good growers,” she said, adding that the team looked for suppliers who were proactively monitoring things like yield potential.
Another aspect of the potato review was making sure everyone had the right water abstraction requirements in place, according to head of technical Beth Hart.