Sainsbury’s decision to drop Prince Charles and the head of the Soil Association as vegetable suppliers to its stores has certainly grabbed the headlines.

On the face it, the decision is a smack in the allotments for two such high-profile organic growers. Sainsbury’s says that the produce supplied by both the Prince’s Highgrove Farm and Patrick Holden’s farm were “not up to standard”.

But delve a little deeper and the story isn’t so cut and dried.

Major supermarkets are now seeing the “local produce” tag-line as a useful marketing tool, tapping into the supposed increased awareness amongst shoppers about issues such as food miles.

But Mr Holden, who is director of the Soil Association, claims that the way in which the big players operate does not make such a trend sustainable. Ironically, he suggests that the way the supermarkets are trying to implement the “local produce” initiatives effectively places too much pressure on the smaller, organic operators they are supposedly trying to help.

It also provides further confusion for those consumers who are more inclined towards ethical shopping and are prepared to take at face value what they read on the label.

Local produce for local people in local stores is a great concept. Questions remains, however, about whether the major retailers can actually deliver on the bold pledges.


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