Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by Mr Ian Merton, Trading Director, Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd (A 63(a))

  In response to the query raised by Mrs Shepard at the evidence session on 27 February regarding consumer interest in local food and the number and proportion of our customer that raise the topic of local food with us through surveys and other means, I can confirm that we measure, through our independently researched Customer Satisfaction Monitor and also our Food Integrity Tracker, the importance of buying locally sourced food. We also monitor customer concerns through our Customer Careline and also through letters received via our stores at our Business Centre. On average we receive 7,000 calls and letters a week on a huge range of issues from car parking at stores, to special offers and food safety issues. Stores tend to receive inquiries regarding the stocking of local products directly which are then forwarded to the relevant buyer to investigate.

  Our Customer Satisfaction Monitor tells us that customers are interested in purchasing local foods but they are unlikely to compromise on quality, appearance, cost or product availability. Local foods need to be able to compete in the current market place with the range of products already on offer. Although I cannot provide exact figures there are a number of important factors which rank above locally made food including value for money and special offers. Local sourcing is important particularly in the fresh food category—especially as an incentive for providing local employment, the theory that it is "fresher" and has travelled fewer miles.

  From our Food Integrity Tracker information, food safety is the number one concern for customers and locally made food appears in the top 10 concerns—this arose during the foot and mouth outbreak last year. Other issues appearing in the top 10 concerns for customers in addition to food safety and local sourcing are labelling issues and sugar, salt and fat content in foods.

8 March 2002

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