Asda is extending the scope of its local sourcing when it comes to strawberries, with a little help from Advanced Marketing Services.

Essex has been added to the list of areas now covered by the scheme - which sees more than 80 stores being supplied directly across eight counties - with plans to add Sussex and Hampshire later in the summer.

Somerset is kicking the scheme off, with an extra two stores being supplied with early West Country fruit from this week, bringing the number of stores receiving direct deliveries from farmers across the country to 10.

Asda said it is actively encouraging local growers and farmers to deliver produce directly to their local store instead of supplying via a regional depot, ensuring it is fresher, has travelled far fewer food miles and has a longer shelf life.

The first West Country local strawberries were grown by Somerset grower Andrew Le Provost, in a heated glasshouse near Cheddar. Le Provost, who has been farming for more than 40 years, has two acres of glasshouse production and a further 1.5 acres of tunnel production. The investment in glasshouse technology has really paid off and he claims he is now producing the earliest strawberries in the West Country.

He said: “Customers really want to support their local farms and growers, as they know that their money is going to remain in the local economy where it can be used to support local business and the community.”

Jayson Clark of AMS, said: “The concept of local is really impacting upon customer’s buying behaviour and we are noticing an ever-increasing demand for locally grown produce. It is a fantastic development that, as a leading retailer, Asda has supported initiatives like this and is actively encouraging UK local growers even further to grow local foods for local consumption.”

To support the initiative, AMS has invested in specific West Country point of sale material which provides information on the fruit.

Locally grown berries are also clearly identified as such by an illustration of the well-known landmark of Clifton Bridge on the label. “Meet the Grower Days” will also be held at stores across the West Country whereby customers can interact with the growers of their local produce, and sample produce that is in season.