I don’t patronise any supermarket for the very simple reason that if they get my custom the small independent shopkeeper doesn’t. But I’m very interested in what the supermarkets get up to which is why I accepted an invitation for a behind the scenes look at a new Booths store in Garstang at the invitation of Slow Food, Lancashire. It seems pretty clear that Booths are trying to position themselves as the Waitrose of the North West and they have a PR department who publicise their policy of supporting local suppliers.
Tonight we were treated to a talk by one of these suppliers, Singletons, who specialise in making Lancashire Cheeses. It was very good of Booths to support these local artisans but could they, we wondered, supply enough to satisfy Booth’s customers? Too right they could- it turns out that they produce a whopping 1,500 tons of it a year. Enough, as it happens, to supply not only every Booths store but every other supermarket chain. But their factory happens to be just round the corner from Booths, so they could validly claim to be supporting a local supplier.
Singletons’ cheese-making produces a by-product which used to be sold on as butter-oil- until they had the bright idea of packaging it themselves and selling it as local butter. It’s the word ‘local’ which makes it sell. They had the even brighter idea of making a donation from each packet sold to the Mountain Rescue charity. This is wonderful, we were told, because every four or five months they get to donate about £1,000 and when they do they get their photo taken for the local paper handing over one of those over-sized cheques. Their PR people estimate that this stunt is worth £40,000 of press advertising a year. Let me just remind myself of the principles of Slow Food- yes- “Good,Clean and Fair”- and not a trace of cynicism anywhere.