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Local provenance food at Waitrose

Matthew Chatfield

Wahoo! The Isle of Wight has finally joined the middle class, and a branch of Waitrose has opened in East Cowes, of all places. A few years ago our only Volvo dealership closed down and, frankly, most people still won’t venture across the water as far as Ikea, even if you can actually see it from the ferry. So Waitrose setting up shop is something that will get the yummy mummies chattering happily for sure.

Apple ©

The Ranger was pleased to see the new shop was touted as “the most ‘green’ supermarket in Britain“. Amongst other innovations, it appears that “the store will be supporting three local suppliers — Goddards Brewery, The Garlic Farm and The Tomato Stall“. Only three? Sounds a bit feeble. But surely Waitrose is the epitome of all that is worthy and green? Isn’t it? The Ranger went along to find out. Waitrose’s own website appears impressively green, and gushes environmental earnestness. But the words themselves give less comfort:

Our buyers seek out the finest local and regional products our country has to offer. Working in partnership with small producers, Waitrose helps boost the economy in many rural areas and its customers get to sample the very best foods made locally.

Doesn’t actually make any commitment about local provenance at all. Or even suggest any active support or encouragement at all. Could do better here.

Where possible Waitrose buys British…

That ellipsis doesn’t really give confidence, does it? And ‘wherever possible’? OK, that’s quite a high standard to set – perhaps in their first week of opening, the greenest store in Britain can actually achieve that. I wandered in, dodging East Cowes’ be-Barboured toffs who were looking with slight alarm at the bloated sportswear-clad peasantry – both groups curiously united by a common interest in the new shop. It didn’t take long to find the big sign “Celebrating regional food”. It took a bit longer to actually find any regional food, though, and even longer to find any local (Isle of Wight) food. Here’s a helpful annotated diagram:

Celebrating regional food at Waitrose
Click image for larger version

Well just look at all those apples – all French or South African. It seems that “buying British where possible” doesn’t include getting British apples in November. I guess the Dutch rhubarb might be just about excusable, but just four bags of Sussex spuds is a pretty poor offering in the most ‘green’ supermarket in Britain. Sorry, Waitrose, you’ve got some great pancetta and all that, but your localist rhetoric is not matched by your actual stock. You know you can do better than this. And just in case you think you can’t, take inspiration from the shelves of a local Co-op corner-shop just a few miles from your new store. Yes, a humble corner shop, one of many similar around the Island:

Co-op local food

Isle of Wight potatoes, cakes, garlic, cooking oil, beer, water, and apple juice. Also not in the picture but probably the most popular food item bought in the shop: all milk in this Co-op is Island-produced. Not just ‘regional’, or even ‘British where possible’, but from the Island, and in a shop you can walk to. That’s local provenance.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

6 thoughts on “Local provenance food at Waitrose

  • wighteye

    Great piece, as an East Cowes resident it has been interesting to see the effect of Waitrose’s arrival. The local Safeway store was closed for 11 days to refurbish as a Co-op prior to Waitrose opening, but it looks to be really suffering a slump in trade. It’s certainly great to have the added choice from Waitrose, e.g Doves Farm organic digestive biscuits, but we still do a fair bit of our shopping in the Co-op, possibly even more now! Mrs Wighteye doesn’t get the feeling that the fresh fish is locally sourced, i.e. no pollock from Ventnor Haven, or coley, which she tells me is more sustainable than cod.

  • With the best will in the world I can’t like any of the big supermarkets, and am far too cynical (probably), about their motives. For me there are fewer greater pleasures than shopping in our local butter market – real, warm and stress-free.

  • Wildlife Gardener

    Co-op stocking sprouted seeds/pulses. Co-op 1, Waitrose NIL…

  • Buying local, no matter where you are, and especially when it comes to food, is always the best option. Forget big corporations. They only care about the bottom line, not your community or you.

  • An excellent and valuable piece of sleuthing.
    Not being able to source English apples at this time of the year is appalling – they are rotting on the trees around here.

  • Very well put! I’ve delayed making a pilgrimage to Waitrose, because all the excited talk about its opening made me feel extra-protective of our local food producers and shopkeepers. I’ve tried even harder than usual to support them. And now we’re promised an Asda in Newport. I’m just getting sick of the march of the supermarkets, though I can’t claim to avoid them altogether.


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