John Moverley, senior consultant at Bidwells Agribusiness, says the catering industry must look for ways to secure a reliable supply of local produce at a reasonable price and at the right quality.
When you're sourcing produce, you've obviously got to get the right price. But there are lots of other factors to keep in mind. At the top of the list is security - ensuring the supply needed can be guaranteed and at the right quality. However, something that is becoming more and more important is provenance: knowing where the product comes from and identifying with it.
Operators know market edge can come from provenance, especially if it links directly to sourcing locally. While the recession has certainly curtailed spending in many areas, food has been largely recession-proof, though buying patterns have changed.
There has been growth in sales of value lines for basic commodities, but at the other end of the spectrum, demand for carefully sourced produce has increased, with a particular focus in terms of fresh produce, dairy products and meat.
At Bidwells we have undertaken a study of operators buying preferences of a variety of operators in the South-east. The results were striking, with well over 50% wanting to buy more local or regional vegetables, poultry, fish, meat, salad, and dairy products. A key issue was sourcing both in terms of identifying the producer, and finding a supply chain that makes the product available to them.
All of this creates major opportunity. Ways must be found to improve engagement between buyer and supplier and establish processes that make it easy to secure supply at a reasonable price with real knowledge of a product's origin.
We are continuing our work in the South-east seeking to help develop the appropriate innovative solutions. What is clear is that this interest in provenance and sourcing locally and regionally is not just a passing phase.
Certainly we must find a solution, easily implemented, so that caterers and those in the hospitality trade can address a real demand for regional produce and find ways of better connecting with suppliers to address the issues of limited supply currently faced.