The Mystery Shopper's Question: "How much fresher is fresh produce when brought locally rather than imported?”
For answers, the Mystery Shopper first visited the retailer's website and, then, posed the question to local produce department personnel. Here are the Mystery Shopper's notes....
What the website says: Supporting British farmers, artisan producers and organic growers is at the heart of what we do – we aim to bring you the very best of British ingredients when they’re in season and at the peak of their flavour.Waitrose always tries to source from Britain when products are in season and at the peak of freshness and flavour.
All Waitrose fresh chicken, beef and pork (including sausages) bacon, duck and goose is British all year round. All our turkeys come from the UK or Ireland and we sell the best of British seasonal lamb and venison when in season.We are proud of our British suppliers and forge strong relationships with them founded on trust, fairness and a passion for good food. With a reputation built on the quality and freshness of our food, we are committed to letting people know about the wealth of high quality food available.
Waitrose believes retailers play a vital role in safeguarding the future of the countryside and the farmers who create it, and we take our responsibilities seriously.
Waitrose was the first retailer to set up livestock producer groups, of which we have over 30, sourcing directly from farm, giving producers an assured market, clear direction, and a stable base on which to build their businesses and invest in the future.
Other initiatives include inviting local farmers into stores to meet customers, talk about their products and see how they are marketed after leaving the farm. We also run regular workshops to help farmers keep abreast of new techniques and environmental issues. Waitrose farmers farm in a considered way to protect and enhance our natural resources and focus on enhancing the biodiversity of their farms. Waitrose supports LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), which aims to unite the concerns of farmers, consumers, environmentalists and the government. All our British Fruit and Vegetables are grown to LEAF standards.
Regional and local sourcing
Many of Waitrose's local products are from companies that produce food within a 30 mile radius of a branch.
Waitrose has a team of buyers dedicated to seeking out local and regional sources of the best quality food that often cannot be found in other supermarkets.
Many of our local suppliers are small, family run businesses, who may want to supply only a handful of Waitrose branches.
At present, more than 2500 local products from 600 local suppliers are available in nearby branches.
Waitrose's Small Producers' Charter reassures our smaller suppliers that we are committed to a fair and ethical relationship with them.
How Sheffield in-store staff responded: Our policy is to buy British where we can. We can import produce one day that is then here the next day, its flown overnight. Sometimes local produce can take longer to come into store. Technically, locally grown should be fresher but not always the case.