FoodTrade was invited to the fantastic Building Sustainable Menus Sustainable Food Summit in Bristol on 6 May to give tips on how to increase local sourcing.
It was great to talk to so many food businesses keen to do the right thing. We wanted to understand barriers to sourcing as well, so we set up a survey for participants to fill in at the event.
Here’s what we learned. Firstly, great news – 100% of participants source fruit and veg locally. Eggs was an impressive 81%, meat/poultry, dairy and baked goods approximately 50%, and fish and alcohol 18%. Food businesses would like to find local suppliers for (in descending order): fruit, dairy, fish, and baked goods. So, calling all you Bristol fishmongers, get in touch with your local restaurants!
Transport and quantity (need more than the producer can supply) were most cited as barriers to local sourcing, with delivery frequency, variety and can’t find suppliers with what I want close behind. Nearly all the food businesses were happy to find new suppliers online.
Want to take the survey? It’s here.
Top Tips for Local Sourcing
Commit – One of the speakers recommended getting ‘married to your producer’, meaning commit to a long term relationship. Having run a weekly veg delivery service, I completely agree. I found small farms that wanted to grow, and worked with them on their growing plans – committing to buy x kilo of broad beans for example. That commitment enabled them to securely expand their production, and meant that they would go the extra mile for us.
Be flexible – a small producer might not be able to supply all of what you need. So think creatively – you could buy as much as the producer has and top up from a wholesaler. Small producers may not deliver every day, so think about how you can structure your orders for the days they can. It’s a little more work, but worthwhile.
Start from what’s available – rather than dreaming up a menu from what you fancy, call your suppliers and ask what they’ve got. Like veg box customers do each week, respond to what’s in season.
Start small – choose one item, find a producer, make an arrangement, just get started. You don’t need to do it all at once.
Do your research – to find your local producers, see who’s selling at your local farmer’s market and strike up a conversation. Talk to other food businesses, ask on twitter, search online. They’re out there, waiting for you!
Why local sourcing?
Local sourcing is a win for food businesses for several reasons. One, the food has travelled less so will be fresher and have fewer food miles. You will know who produced it where and using what methods – no horsemeat! Buying locally is good for the economy – the money you spend stays in the local area. And it’s a great marketing story – Sustainability and short, transparent supply chains are becoming a core part of attracting customers. What’s not to like?