The UK’s usually reliable food supply has been called into question in recent weeks due to
widespread gaps in supermarket salad vegetable supply. Despite being admired for its strong
foundations, the UK’s homegrown horticultural edifice has been exposed as having a lack of
contingency and domestic supply. This has raised concerns about the country’s reliance on imports
and the need to secure and expand its own supply base. The UK’s supermarkets have been criticised
for their ultra-low price model and their reliance on fixed-price contracts, which have been shown to
be counterproductive during periods of instability. The UK’s salad crisis has also exposed the
weaknesses in the country’s food retail system and the need for contingency plans.
The European retail sector is questioning the reliability of retailers’ supply programs. In recent weeks,
British supermarkets have faced an unprecedented shortage of salad vegetables such as tomatoes,
cucumbers, and peppers, while supermarket shelves on the continent were still well-stocked. This
situation has raised concerns about the resilience and reliability of the UK food distribution system,
particularly with regard to vegetable farming.
The reasons for this crisis are multiple: high energy prices, unfavorable weather conditions in the
Mediterranean, production cancellations by local producers due to high energy prices, and the war in
Ukraine, which has impacted energy prices.
However, some experts have also questioned the economic model of British supermarkets, which
relies on very low prices for food products. Some players in the food industry have pointed to the
fixed-price contracts that British supermarkets have signed with their suppliers, which have made it
difficult to adjust prices to market conditions in real-time.
Buyers of fresh products from British supermarkets are known for their toughness in negotiations
with suppliers, but also for their access to detailed data on consumer buying habits. This data allows
them to better predict demand and organize supply programs. However, suppliers sometimes
complain that supermarket buyers do not offer them prices high enough to cover their costs.