M&S Select Grower

M&S Select Grower Scheme For Vegetable, Salad & Fruit Growers

Do you want to supply produce to Marks & Spencer?
For any grower this is, in some ways, the ultimate seal of approval for your work and your produce! M&S however, have set their bar high!
M&S Select Grower Support and Guidance

Their ground breaking Plan A was an effort to turn around the terrible reputation of large chain food suppliers after the food scares of the previous century and set themselves as a standard for excellence in both food quality, food safety and an ethical supply chain. For Food producers and farmers the result is currently known as the M&S Select Grower Assurance Standard.

To be accepted into the Marks & Spencer food supply chain is a valuable, high level endorsement of you - the food supplier, your reputation and working practises. Consequently, the levels of performance expected are challenging. This is where ML3 Technical can provide the consultancy support to guide you to a successful outcome first time!

M&S Plan A: A Forward Looking Approach to Food Safety & Quality

M&S decided to create their own standard when their work with food standards bodies including: LEAF, Global GAP, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN) and Red Tractor Assurance didn't, in their view, meet the aspirations of the Plan A vision.

In 2003 Marks and Spencer unveiled the Field to Fork scheme, which endeavoured to manage the supermarket's supply chain for vegetables, salad crops and fruit. Field to Fork set new, higher standards for traceability of foodstuffs through the chain of supply; more rigorous environmental protections, stronger encouragement for non-GM foods, reductions in the use of pesticides and more ethical trading practices.

M&S Select Grower Field to Fork Produce audit

M&S Field To Fork Standard Evolves to Select Grower

The scheme was revamped in 2015. No longer is it known as Field to Fork - its new label is M&S Select Grower! A major revision is a stronger focus on food safety! Field to Fork included significant duplication of the requirements of other schemes such as LEAF and increased burdens on suppliers with no extra benefit. The M&S Select Grower Assurance standards are part of the company's Codes of Practice and now include a wider range of produce, including: basic fresh produce, nuts and dried fruit, frozen produce, prepared produce and produce with a short shelf-life.

ML3 Technical have an excellent working knowledge of these codes of practise and can keep your company's focus on the correct areas of improvement and audit to ensure you have the best chance of gaining access to this profitable market first time.

What are the Requirements of the Select grower Scheme?

Marks and Spencer want to ensure that the food coming up their supply chain is safe! The risk assessment and Hazards Analysis (HACCP) approach is fundamental to this work and needs to be tructured so that foodstuffs and products are free of contaminants and are carefully harvested, packed and processed under rigorously controlled conditions to prevent contamination being introduced further up the supply chain.

The 7 Point Audit Process

The audit process focuses on 7 key areas that are critical in the food journey from field to shelf:

  • * Pre Requisites – basic standards that must be in place
  • * Site Selection – understanding the risk of fields
  • * Planting & Drilling – controls over seeds including organic compost
  • * Growing & Unputs – control over pesticides, and water usage
  • * Harvest – hygiene of the crop during harvesting whether mechanical or by hand
  • * Packing – standards in the packhouse or in the field
  • * Cool & Store – controls over food safety during storage and distrbution

Within these 7 areas, particular focus is applied to a growers controls over microbiological, physical, chemical and allergenic contamination.

M&S's field to fork certification

Food Safety Risks Classification

The crops grown all carry their own specific risks - so a supplier looking to break into the Marks & Spencers supply chain will need to understand where their fresh produce fits in the different categories, which range from:

Category 0 Produce
Category 0 Produce is considered the highest risk. Marks and Spencer manage a list of all produce considered as Category 0 dependent on historical data, likelihood and severity of a food safety incident. Produce in this category requires a full on-site field to fork audit including micro questions. All seven sections of the audit and the maximum of 78 questions are covered. The audit is conducted by an auditor who has been specifically trained by Marks and Spencer to carry out Category 0 Produce audits. Marks and Spencer manage the list of all Category 0 Produce approved auditors.

Top Down Responsibility for Food Safety & Quality:

Whatever stage of the M&S supply chain you occupy, you will need to be audited to the Select Grower Standard. Growers, packers and processors all come under its remit. If you receive produce from an earlier step in the chain, it is your responsibility to ensure the supplier below you passes audit.

Direct suppliers to M&S can carry out the audit in-house or bring in a secondary supplier as a competent auditor. Ultimately, food safety responsibility is focussed on the direct supplier into Marks & Spencers.

For a food growing business it makes sense to bring in a consultant such as ML3 Technical to help you approach the 7 sections of the Select Grower audit, with a range of up to 78 questions.

Essential Questions have Fail, Acceptable, "Fully Compliant" or "Leading Standard" grades as outcomes. Any Fail on an Essential check automatically removes you from the M&S Select Grower pool.

You will not be able to supply M&S until the cause of concern is rectified and that audit requirement is passed! This is why bringing in external expertise, such as consultants like ourselves in ML3 Technical, can be so valuable. Having to repeat the audit process is costly in cash, staff goodwill and time!

How M&S Select Growers Scheme Benefits Producers Now

The Select Grower standard has been pitched at a challenging level for primary producers - the growers and packers in the food supply chain to ensure an exceptionally high standard of produce on M&S supermarket shelves. Attaining the Gold standard, above the Silver or Bronze awards is an exceptional vindication of your company's professionalism – currently only two growers in the world have achieved the gold standard.

ML3 Technical have considerable experience with the reporting platforms that have been created specifically for M&S Select Grower audits and we can steer you clear of many regular areas of misunderstanding. ML3 can also support farms who wish to achieve recognition under the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Scheme.