THE East of England Co-op has paid tribute to its local suppliers hosting a special event for them in Ipswich on Friday.
There are 114 businesses which supply goods to the Co-op and this has created more than 100 new jobs.
The company began its local sourcing initiative in 2007 and since then more than £15million has been paid to suppliers in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.
It has also helped local producers to apply for business grants from DEFRA as well as enabling them to expand and invest in their business.
The Sourced Locally brand was launch last April and the Co-op says that the majority of its products are now sourced within a 30 mile radius of stores.
Among local suppliers in West Suffolk are wholesale meat suppliers The Taste of Suffolk in Boldero Road, on Moreton Hall, Diaper Poultry in Haughley and Stoke Farm Orchards in Battisford which produces Appletree Hill apple juice.
Roger Simons, manager of The Taste of Angia, said small companies like themselves benefitted from the link with the smaller family oriented stores.
David Upson, who farms 30 acres at Battisford, has been providing apple juice since the scheme began.
He said: “It has worked very well for us as they are very easy to deal with. You just pick up the phone and you get somebody to talk to.”
Kevin Warden, local sourcing manager, said: “Our Sourced Locally initiative continues to go from strength to strength and we believe that it makes social and economic sense for us and our local suppliers.”
In the year to the end of January 2009 the East of England Co-op sold £2million worth of locally sourced goods. This last year that had risen to £7.1million.