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The English Apple Man


20th Oct 2023 - Fair Play?

Regular readers of The English Apple Man will be well aware of the challenges facing British apple growers desperate need for fair prices from our Supermarkets and the real possibility of many growers going out of business!


A former Asda buying chief has turned from poacher to gamekeeper to offer suppliers training in the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.


Ged Futter, who worked for nearly 15 years with the supermarket giant, the last four as senior buying manager for frozen food, told The Grocer he wanted to help bring "balance" back to the relationship between suppliers and retailers.


Supermarkets were turning their superior negotiation skills into a "billion pound industry", Futter warned, adding many suppliers were too scared to stand up to retailers because there was still a "climate of fear"


To help suppliers be more assertive, Futter is offering to train them up through his new business, Innovative Retailing Solutions, which he launched in February.



GSCOP training is designed to help suppliers understand their rights, protect their business, and grow. The training is crucial because without it, suppliers might not be aware of what they don't know!

Ged Futter


"As a Buyer this was one of my biggest frustrations & it still is. The burden that is placed upon Suppliers by UK Retailers is astounding & incredibly expensive. Who picks up the cost? Clearly the expectation by the Retailers is that it is picked up by the Supplier but that cost is just added into the cost price as the 'cost of doing business'.


The cost of an audit by a Retailer can be 2000-4000 thousand pounds per audit. I was speaking with one of my clients, who deals with all of the Retailers & they were audited 40 weeks of the year! Each audit requires a team of people from the Supplier on the day & then there is the follow up. When dealing with one of the Retailers 75% of their responses were rejected! This is a business that has grown from 2 to 27, just to deal with Specs / Technical & NPD! All the Retailers have their own versions & some have more than one! One of the premium Retailers is introducing a third audit, on top of the two they already do & yet the volumes that they buy, compared to any of the Top 6 retailers is miniscule!


The other question to ask is, are they needed ever year in every Category? Does an apple or pear supplier need an audit every year? What is the food safety risk? It is all driven by fear & a blame culture, the whole industry has become risk averse & this is adding in costs & pressure to farmers / growers & Suppliers. Here is a list of all the potential audits that an apple or pear grower may get in a year.


Red Tractor, LEAF, BRC, SMETA, ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative), GRASP audits, Home Office (unannounced) as well as Retailer unannounced audits. Audits can take anything from 1-3 days, often at peak times of the season, such as picking season. These audits are not optional & very often they repeat work that has already been done!


There is a simpler way of doing this, one of the Retailers is already doing it. Aldi. They only get involved when there is a serious incident, they have an independent technical function with not many updates to their policies & it is a pragmatic BRC based approach. This is what I was told by an ex-colleague with over 30 years in the industry.


Working with UK retailers is complicated, expensive & time consuming, is it any wonder that importers look at the UK and are turning away for simpler, more profitable markets?


Why is it that Retailer led initiatives never cost Retailers any money, it is always someone else?


What would happen if no farmer or grower signed up to it? Would Retailers look overseas, at Suppliers who are also not signed up? Not sure that worked out well for them during the 'Salad Days' earlier this year.



Comment from a leading UK apple grower


Departments within retailers responsible for creating these additional audits are growing like a cancer, feeding off and demanding resources to grow themselves larger and more influential, a whole parasitic support industry has been spawned which creates absolutely nothing of value, needless bureaucratic box ticking exercises.


Most of the UK workforce now seems to be employed in jobs which consume wealth created by others, crippling competitiveness across the globe. I, like many others, now spend a disproportionate amount of time demonstrating that I comply with with is, in many many cases, already the law of the land, rather than the business of actually growing a crop.


What happened to innocent until proven guilty? I have a question, while we're on the subject of Ethical Trading, heave you ever thought what effect your dubious business practices have on the mental health of your suppliers? Answers on a post card.


Aldi has been named 2023 Apple Retailer of the Year by trade association British Apples & Pears (BAPL).


The award is based on BAPL member sales to British supermarkets from September 2022 to the end of August 2023, during which the discounter sold 32,165 tonnes of British dessert apples, ahead of Tesco's 28,954t and Sainsbury's 24,448t.


BAPL executive chair Ali Capper said: "Aldi's commitment to British has been growing every year. With a grocery market share of only 10.2 per cent, we are delighted to see Aldi significantly over indexing for British apples.


"Aldi sold 23 per cent of all British apples last year - the greatest volume of any UK supermarket, just pipping Tesco's 21 per cent. For Aldi to sell more than double the expected volume, based on grocery market share, is an excellent performance and one which we hope other retailers will emulate."


Long-term support


BAPL also analysed performance over the last three years to identify longer-term support for the category. In terms of all apple and pear sales covering the 2019 to 2022 crops, Sainsbury's sold the most (117,892t), with Tesco second (116,869t) and Aldi in third (111,373t).




"It's so important all our supermarkets get behind British farmers and our wonderful British apples and pears, "Capper added. "Buying British over imported fruit saves on food miles, and we know consumers want British if at all possible. When we have such wonderful fruit available in good quantities, that will store well, there really is no reason to look overseas. It would be great to see every retailer making it much easier for the shopper to find British apples and pears in their stores and online."



The English Apple Man Comments


On a more cheerful note; On my recent shopping visit to Sainsburys, I was delighted to walk in and see two British Apple Specific displays.


Below: Sainsburys British 'specific' apple displays



To end this week's Journal, The English Apple Man visited an old friend on Tuesday and had a ride around Chris Hunt's Cider Apple Farm. Chris was keen for me to see the orchards as he said this is the heaviest crop has seen in the last 28 years!


Harvesting is under way, but still much to harvest. As the trees shed their crop (naturally over several weeks, the fallen fruit is swept up by a harvesting machine transferred into bins in readiness for the journey to the Cider maker.



That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man




Back in 2017 The English Apple Man visited Chris Hunt at Blossom time


To view my visit in 2017 Click on Cider farming in East Sussex