Sainsbury’s promise to double British sourcing is an opportunity for British food producers.
Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King has urged the British food industry to rise to the challenge of seeking new opportunities for growth, as the supermarket plans to double the amount of British food it sells by 2020.
In a speech to over 1,000 farmers, growers and suppliers at the company's annual agricultural conference, Mr King said that the UK food industry can grow for the future with confidence, despite the current economic climate, by taking advantage of increasing customer demand for home-grown food.
Chief executive Justin King said: "As part of our new 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan, we have committed to doubling sales of British food by 2020. That will mean increasing our current sales from over £4 billion to over £8 billion a year.
"This presents a great opportunity for British farmers, as Sainsbury's customers increasingly ask for more quality, British food. Now all we need is the industry to work together to create sustainable supply chains for the future.
"In these tough economic times our country needs action to boost sustainability and create secure supply chains, so our long term commitment and investment will provide security and help the food industry plan and grow food for the future with confidence."
Sainsbury's farmers and growers have already benefitted from working with the supermarket to improve productivity and efficiency. Dairy farmers alone have saved over £10 million in the last five years thanks to improvements in animal welfare and savings in energy bills.
King added: "We're going further than any other retailer to support farmers in the Sainsbury's development groups by creating sustainable, resilient supply chains. So far we've invested over £30 million which includes funding for vet visits, environmental assessments, advice and new IT equipment. We will keep investing in British farming to support the economy and boost farm productivity, creating significant savings on our sustainability journey to 2020."
The Sainsbury's 'Farm for Life' conference took place at the BBC's Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham on Wednesday 23 November and is the largest event of its kind to be held by a major retailer. In addition to hearing from Sainsbury's, attendees also heard from farmers and growers about their progress in the Sainsbury's Development Groups, now established across beef, lamb, pork, eggs, chicken, milk, cheese, grain and produce.
The Director of Sainsbury's brand, Judith Batchelar, also announced a series of awards, recognising those farmers who had made significant progress in reducing carbon emissions or improving animal welfare.
Director of Sainsbury's brand, Judith Batchelar, said: "The breadth and structure of our Development Groups goes further than any other retailer and we are really proud today to host the biggest ever farmers conference. Four of our farmers gave great presentations on the work they've been doing in collaboration with us - whether it's reducing fuel or water consumption, using greener energy sources, or introducing new practices to boost welfare.
"Small changes on farms can lead to massive savings along the line, so today we're celebrating our farmers' success and looking forward to the future."
Sainsbury's lamb farmer Jake Freestone updated the audience on his work to reduce carbon emissions and improve efficiency. He said: "Sainsbury's not only support new farming initiatives but they provide the infrastructure and advice I need to improve efficiency. I've been a member of the Lamb Development Group since the start, and thanks to the carbon footprinting initiative I've been able to introduced new grass types, which I hope will lead to my lambs next year finishing quicker and therefore reducing my production costs. This would not have been possible without Sainsbury's support and I'm very proud to work with a supermarket with such a strong commitment to quality British food."
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