Customers demand local produce and that is one of the keys to the changing fortunes of popular food retailer McDonalds, its supply chain director told the NFU Conference.
Speaking as part of the markets session on day one, Connor McVeigh outlined McDonalds’ relationship with its suppliers and how they had focused on promoting the fact it sourced British and Irish beef.
Mr McVeigh said the restaurant had achieved nearly a decade of growth since reaching a low-point ten years ago and had managed to turn things around since consumers said they were no longer happy with its food.
“Ten years ago we got a sharp wake-up call. Our customers told us that the food we were serving was not up to scratch - it wasn’t what they wanted in terms of quality, nutrition, and in some instances, how it was sourced,” he said.
“We’d fallen out of step with their expectations and they showed their displeasure with their wallets and their feet. Ten years ago we realised we had to change to give customers reasons to trust us, and crucially to choose our food. We served British and Irish beef but hardly anyone knew about it. So we started running advertising.
“Our commitment to British agriculture I believe creates a significant opportunity for farmers,” he added.
“Our customers love local so we source as close to home as possible whenever possible. We serve only British and Irish beef because this is what our customers tell us they want and we now have a beef business which is a little bit more than twice the size of Marks & Spencer’s.”
They now work with 17,500 British farmers, he said, and worked towards a supply chain focused on investment and not price-cutting. Mr McVeigh also told delegates that the restaurant only sourced 200 products for its entire range but because of that, a failure in the supply chain was not an option.
“If there’s a harvest failure on iceberg lettuce, we’re not able to serve up Big Macs. That 28g of lettuce which goes into our best known burger can make the difference to hundreds of thousands of customers each and every day. Thankfully those occasions don’t arise because of the partnerships we have throughout our supply chain and because our suppliers invest to ensure risk is mitigated and go that extra mile for us even in those tough times.
“And we’ve learnt that successful suppliers confident in their long-term relationship with McDonalds feel empowered, are willing, and are able to invest for the long-term.
“The only way we will be to source the increasing volume of those 200 ingredients is if British farming prospers. So doing business for us boils down to a simple approach – take decisions that are led by your customers, deliver against them and work in partnership. But we don’t know all the answers which is why our commitment to agriculture is carefully planned and is done in consultation with the industry.”