Corporate Diet

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.

 

Comments

  1. Ms Christine Bergin -

    You have no idea how much this article resonates with me. I have no expertise or knowledge apart form being a mum and seeing how the food supply in this country has been concentrated more and more into the hand of corporations whose only interest is making as large a profit as they can. They have no interest in the degradation they leave behind either to land or people as they move to ever cheaper ways to provide us with ‘garbage’ to eat. It becomes harder and harder to source quality ingredients with which to feed a family and the cost goes up substantially as the difficulty increases. Then this government has the gall to complain about people getting sick. Something is very wrong with the way we are forced to live.
    Favourite rant. Apologies.

    1. Peter May -

      Favourite rant perhaps – but only because it is true!

  2. Tim Worstall -

    “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.”

    More expensive food, available only in season, is the way to improve the nation’s diet?

    Yes, well done there, well done.

    And yes, it is more expensive. If it weren’t then the supermarkets wouldn’t be undercutting the local food growers with lower prices, would they?

    1. Peter May -

      “More expensive food, available only in season, is the way to improve the nation’s diet?” Yes – try it!
      Nor is it necessarily more expensive – that’s why it’s in season for goodness sake…
      You want to check your supermarket’s veg prices against independents – the differences might surprise you.
      You also need to check why you think it’s a good idea that food that makes us sick is cheap and well marketed but we then have to employ the resources of the underfunded health service to make us well again. Or is this the way the economy is supposed to work?

  3. Noel Scoper -

    “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. ”

    Wine, of course, would be exempt.

    1. Peter May -

      “Wine, of course, would be exempt.”
      One of the few advantages of Brexit are that it might not. The French long ago campaigned not to be obliged to list the ingredients in a botttle of wine. When/if we leave we could. And personally I’d prevent advertising of alcohol – an idea nicked from the French!

  4. Allen Bell -

    “And small local food is what we should be trying to encourage . .”
    Simple – get rid of the VAT exemption for all food products. All the balcony gardeners, allotment holders and anyone up to the VAT threshold immediately gets an edge over the larger businesses.
    But I suppose because free market think tanks advocate this ( with a few £ added to the welfare baseline ), and the OECD and others endorse consumption taxation, then ahem ‘progressives’ have to oppose it because they didn’t think of it themselves. I suggest taking a leaf out of the playbook of top politicians and nick the best ideas of your opponents.

    1. Peter May -

      It’s a possibility but it would need a long transitional period – 20% increase is an awful lot and it would need more than a few quid on added to the welfare baseline as those who don’t have much to spend spend a higher percentage of their income on food. So in the end I don’t think it is a best idea – from top politicians or not!

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