Customers at Welsh branches of Marks & Spencer are enjoying the freshest new potatoes thanks to a supply agreement involving Pembrokeshire-grown earlies.

The High Street giant has teamed up with the Puffin Produce grower co-operative to get Pembrokeshire early potatoes on the shelves of 18 Welsh stores hours after harvesting.

Grower William Richards, who has 40 acres of new potatoes at Windmill Park, St Brides, says the M&S deal is a coup for the Pembrokeshire early potato market.

“Both Marks & Spencer and Pembrokeshire new potatoes are synonymous with quality. It is good news for growers that our product in now available for sale through this premier retailer,” says Mr Richards, whose farm has been producing potatoes for 60 years.

The potatoes are supplied by Haverfordwest-based Puffin Produce Ltd. Managing director Huw Thomas says its growers had staggered their planting pattern to ensure a continuous supply of earlies for an eight-week period.

The loyalty of Welsh consumers played an important role in securing supply agreements such as this, he added.

“In Wales we have some of the most loyal consumers, they really want to be able to buy local produce and retailers have reacted to this,” says Mr Thomas.

Hugh Mowat, head agronomist at M&S, says the company strives to bring the best regional produce to customers and its Welsh potatoes are no exception.

“We have worked hard with our growers to introduce new and innovative varieties of produce to our stores, and we hope our customers enjoy our new Welsh potatoes.”

The opportunity to supply Marks & Spencer was identified in collaboration with Cywain, the Welsh Assembly-funded scheme that helps primary producers to add value and Mr Thomas says this assistance was invaluable.

At the Haverfordwest branch of M&S, store manager, Stuart Jaynes, says sales of Pembrokeshire new potatoes had been strong.

“I am a native of Pembrokeshire and I’m really proud that we have potatoes grown just 12 miles away on sale in our Haverfordwest store. I have bought and eaten some myself and they tasted really fresh. They are an excellent price for the standard of product.”

Steadily growing demand among Welsh shoppers for regional produce has helped Puffin Produce to expand its distribution throughout Wales over the past year. The company has applied for ‘European Protected Food Name Status’ for Pembrokeshire Earlies, an accolade granted only to Europe’s finest foods and wines.