Small scale food and drink businesses impact case study
The Impact of Tesco's Project Re-set
In 2016 Tesco launched ‘Project Re-Set’, seeking to reduce the number of its products by 15% per annum over the following three years, leaving small-scale producers of food and drink vulnerable to de-listing if their products under-performed. Thanks to research findings from the Who Buys My Food (WBMF) project at the University of East Anglia (UEA) this threat was turned into a genuine business opportunity.
From threat to opportunity
Led by UEA’s Prof Andrew Fearne, the WBMF project developed tools to deliver customised market intelligence to small-scale suppliers, improving their marketing capability and enabling a more targeted allocation of their scare resources. In a nutshell, research findings from WBMF showed small-scale businesses how they could improve the supplier/retailer relationship and protect themselves from product de-listing.
"Who Buys My Food (WBMF) has enabled us to punch above our weight as a small supplier."
- Cleone Foods
Impact on individual small-scale food and drink suppliers
The bottom line is that better resource allocation has led to above-average sales growth with suppliers reporting that over the following three years their total sales had grown by an average of 20%, of which 18% could be attributed to their involvement in WBMF.
"We can now see who our customers are, and where and when they are purchasing our products. This helps us tailor our promotions, positioning, and sampling events to the needs of our customer."
- Thistly Cross Cider
Other factors behind this turnaround of fortunes include greater engagement with the redesigned WBMF web data visualisation tool, making it easier for users to find key data more quickly, from any device, at any time.
Impact on the supplier/retailer relationship
Initially, survival was the primary goal for small-scale suppliers and the WBMF project helped them identify two of the key performance metrics Tesco used when considering candidates for de-listing. Namely, customer penetration and repeat purchase rate. Their advice on how to approach each resulted in 86% of respondents in a survey noting a significant improvement in their relationship with the Tesco buyer, with 63% happy to report they found the project invaluable in helping them avoid product de-listing.
From Tesco’s perspective, WBMF’s findings into why store allocation didn’t align with customer demand impacted on the retail giant’s entire approach to the ranging of local lines.
"The messages you were giving to suppliers regarding the pursuit of increased distribution to their products contributed towards the changes that Tesco made in the ranging of local lines."
- Local Buying Manager, Tesco
Impact at a sector level
In Northern Ireland, WBMF collaborated with InvestNI enabling the regional economic development agency to take a more hands-on approach when supporting small firms. In 2020, InvestNI undertook an evaluation of the impact of the WBMF project which revealed that 94% of businesses involved were extremely satisfied with the project.
"Many businesses reported growth in revenue, improved relationships with retail customers and an acknowledgement that they were better informed and more effective in targeting their marketing resources."
- Consumer Insights Manager, InvestNI
The fact is, collaboration added an additional £500,000 to sales from new product listings in Northern Ireland and £2.3m from new product listings in GB, supporting the business case for investment of public funds into the provision of consumer insight to the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland.