Sainsbury’s says it has struck a unique deal to supply its 360 in-store bakeries with traceable British flour, as part of an initiative to become what it calls "the best baker in town".

Sainsbury’s will source some 55,000 tons of wheat annually, from a farmer-owned cooperative called Camgrain, in a bid to create a short and efficient supply chain. Camgrain will supply the wheat, to be milled by Whitworth Brothers, through marketing agent Grainfarmers.

"We feel it’s a strong story to tell UK customers," said Sarah Mackenzie in-store bakery bread buyer at Sainsbury’s. "While we are supporting British farmers, the shorter supply chain will also mean that we are improving our efficiency."

By April 2008, Sainsbury’s will be pushing its in-store bakery and advertising the partnership to its customers through point-of-sale material, case studies of farmers and supporting media, she told British Baker. At the moment, 80% of the wheat that produces flour for Sainsbury’s in-store bread products is sourced from the partnership and 5% is from Canada. It aims to increase the wheat from the partnership to 85% by April 2008 and to 100% by 2009.

"Sourcing with integrity is a priority for Sainsbury’s," added Mackenzie. "We conducted several consumer focus groups and found that more people are wanting provenance and to know how and where ingredients are sourced."

Ninety per cent of the wheat collected from the 300 Camgrain farmers is being grown within a 30-mile radius in the East Anglia area. A two-year contract has been agreed, but there are options to extend it until 2011.

The new agreement will also see the launch of the Sainsbury’s British Flour Development Group (SBFDG) in January. The group has been set up to share information and encourage best practice between retailer, miller and the 300 wheat farmers belonging to Camgrain.

It will drive efficiency, discuss environmental issues, the use of pesticides and devise a farming code of practice.

"This partnership will result in a homogenous, traceable and transparent farm-to-bakery supply chain," said John Latham, chairman of Camgrain. "We believe that no other baker or manufacturer can boast this degree of traceability."