Supporting the development of a Dynamic Procurement System for public food procurement in Gloucestershire


The project aimed to facilitate a future Dynamic Procurement System (DPS) for public food procurement in Gloucestershire, creating new opportunities for farmers to sell produce into public sector catering contracts.

Building upon work initiated by the CCRI within the Horizon 2020 ROBUST project, NICRE funded research with Gloucestershire farmers and procurers. The objectives were to:

  • Identify opportunities for rural enterprise in regional procurement.
  • Investigate local capacity to meet procurement demand.
  • Catalyse traction for a DPS platform within the region.

Develop shared learning on the processes and structures required to support rural enterprises through DPS and progressive procurement policies.


Few SME producers in the UK supply public procurement contracts. The National Food Strategy states: “public food procurement is dominated by a small number of larger suppliers … there is little incentive for innovation and improvement.”

A DPS offers producers and suppliers (which meet basic entry criteria) the opportunity to sell directly to the public plate. Public sector organisations gain access to seasonally varied food from regional producers and suppliers. Yet understanding local supply’s potential to meet local procurement demand remains challenging.

Alongside activities led by the South West Food Hub and following on from ROBUST, this project explored:

  • The capacity of Gloucestershire’s local food supply base.
  • The size of Gloucestershire’s public procurement market.
  • The structures needed to successfully deploy a DPS at regional level and develop opportunities for innovation.

The project took place between September 2020 and July 2021, and included:

  • A small farmer survey.
  • Interviews with farmers and public procurers.
  • Meetings with local and regional stakeholders.

The project found that most public procurers in Gloucestershire were open to exploring a DPS. Slightly over half the farmers surveyed expressed ‘cautious interest’. Common reservations were: prices available via the DPS platform, full costs of entry, and operational practicalities.

Next steps

While the project was intended to provide a step-change towards DPS in the South West, future implementation in Gloucestershire depends on whether the county wishes to join the region in adopting this solution, or continue to explore the potential with Crown Commercial Services. There is growing appetite in Gloucestershire for developing local procurement and time is ripe for further research to ensure the optimum solution for the county.

Meanwhile, GFFP has launched its vision and established local procurement as a key aim to leverage momentum. Through work instigated by GFFP, the county has been awarded membership of Sustainable Food Places and will work towards achieving its bronze award, for which building local procurement opportunity will be a key objective. In addition, GFFP supported work which contributed to the launch of the ‘Made in Gloucestershire’ scheme, led by GFirst LEP.

Conclusions and recommendations

Opportunities exist in regional food procurement. Rural innovation can create the social, economic, and technical structures that facilitate relationships between local suppliers and public procurers.

But increasing South West produce on the regional public plate requires addressing several barriers. Key barriers in Gloucestershire are:

  • Processing infrastructure and capacity.
  • Efficient and affordable distribution/logistics solutions for smaller volumes.
  • Accurate supply and demand data.

Surprisingly, the often-cited barrier to farmer innovation – being ‘time poor’ or administratively burdened – did not feature highly. Instead, there were concerns that procurement will not offer competitive prices. Procurement will not be a premium market but could provide complementary opportunities for produce below retail grade or a buffer for export market fluctuations.

Communication and support will be crucial to meeting farmers’ needs within a future DPS. For procurers, a DPS needs to support existing supplier relationships, which they have cultivated over time and trust to deliver reliably.

Addressing the barriers suggests additional opportunities for rural enterprise and innovation, such as:

  • Co-operative processing networks and sharing under-utilised assets to flex capacity with demand.
  • Innovation to make shorter journeys with smaller produce volumes financially and environmentally viable.
  • A county-level supply and demand dashboard (potentially linked to natural capital and environmental land management data).