November 1st saw over 450 Waitrose producers, staff,
suppliers, and trade representatives gather at the Telford International Centre
for the 8th Waitrose Farming Conference, one of the most important events on
the calendar for farmers who supply product to the supermarket.
This year’s conference was the first for Rob Collins in his
role as Managing Director of Waitrose, having taken over the role from Mark
Price in April. In his inaugural address, Rob highlighted Waitrose’s ‘industry
leading standards’ and named Dovecote Park as an example of one of the suppliers
whose partnership with Waitrose has been crucial to the retailers success, and ‘the
envy of many’. Robs speech focused on the concept of Modern Waitrose, which is
central to his vision as Managing Director, and he highlighted the success of
the Waitrose1 range – for which we launched and rebranded a number of products –
and Waitrose’s market leading operating margin, as evidence of the continuing success
of Modern Waitrose.
The crowd were also addressed by Rupert Thomas, Waitrose
Marketing Director, Meurig Raymond, President of the National Farmers Union and
Andrew Saunders, Agricultural Director of Dalehead Foods, who talked in detail
about the ongoing work being done to introduce non GM soya from Europe into the
Waitrose animal feed supply chain.
The highlight of the day for many was the Farmer Awards,
judged by an independent panel of experts. We were extremely pleased to see a
number of Dovecote Park suppliers amongst the winners and nominees.
Gary Gray (pictured), who supplies cattle to our Aberdeen
Angus scheme, was Highly Commended in the category of Future Proofing, the
judges recognizing his holding as, ‘adaptable, forward thinking and efficient’.
The category of Inspiration and Leadership saw a tie, with the Nelless family,
who supply Dovecote Park collecting joint winner.
The prize for Environmental Sustainability in the Livestock
Sector was awarded to Dovecote supplier Sir Richard Sutton Estates, praised by
the judges for their variety of conservation efforts - including lapwing areas and
barn own boxes – and described as a ‘truly worthy winner’.
This years Farmer Awards saw the introduction of the new
category of Young Farmer, which recognizes outstanding achievement by young
farmers from throughout the Waitrose supply base. We were delighted to see Tom
White, whose family have supplied Dovecote Park for many years, appear as a
Highly Commended finalist in this category.
Dovecote Park would like to congratulate all our producers
who were recognized at this year’s conference, and extend our thanks to
Waitrose for yet another successful event.