It is of considerable surprise – to me at least – that Tesco has been given the go-ahead by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to take over Bookers.
That’s Britain’s largest food retailer taking over Britain’s largest food wholesaler. Tesco also runs its own convenience stores which is an area where Booker are very prominent, but they follow a franchise model. I doubt their franchisees are feeling happy.
Into this heady mix P&H wholesale, Britain’s largest delivered grocery wholesaler, and tobacco supplier to Tesco, has called in administrators and made the majority of their staff redundant. And it’s less than a month to Christmas. But at least Tesco can get their tobacco from Booker. The CMA was untroubled by Booker’s mere 20% wholesale share. The removal of P&H will have changed all that.
P&H wholesale’s failure has led to the Co-op supplying Costcutter – in some haste.
Meanwhile the Co-op itself has agreed (subject to CMA approval) to take over NISA – a customer owned buying group of independent small supermarkets who were feeling vulnerable, as well they might.
Now it is perhaps encouraging to see the Co-op gain more traction, but much more worrying is that the concentration of our food supply channels only encourages the corporations, which have an easy ‘route to market’ as the jargon has it. Small, local, food finds it difficult to get a look in. And small local food is what we should be trying to encourage – not only from a climate change aspect but also in an effort to fix the UK’s disastrous diet. A recent Sustainable Food Trust report estimated that diet-related disease added 37p to every £1 spent on food.We need to steer away from food that is well travelled, well marketed, supplied in brightly coloured packaging and which contains much of the delights of the (American) label below. We won’t be able to improve the nation’s health until we improve its diet.
But I don’t suppose that is even on the radar of the Competition and Markets Authority.