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Streamlining School Budgets: The Case for Own-Brand Food

One way to ease the pressure on school budgets is to switch to own-brand food products. Own-brand products are often cheaper than big-name brands without compromising taste and quality. 

In recent years, financial constraints on school budgets have become a common concern for administrators across the country. One area where schools may be overspending without even realising it is in the realm of food services. Surprisingly, a solution to ease these fiscal pressures could be in the form of switching to own-brand food products.

LACA, the School Food People, published a survey with 168 respondents covering 2,632 schools and 722,000 pupils daily. The key highlights from the survey are:

  • 90% of survey respondents reported they were experiencing food shortages and substitutions from their supply chain
  • Chicken, bread, and oil were the items mentioned most frequently as being the most affected by shortages
  • 54% of respondents have seen an increase in the number of pupils opting for benefit-based free school meals since the start of the pandemic
  • 40% of caterers are concerned they will no longer be able to meet the school food standards in the new academic year, and 55% said that if things do not improve, school food quality will deteriorate
  • If cost and supply chain issues do not improve, 55% of respondents expect a decline in school food quality.

You can read the full report here.


In recent years, there has been a shift in consumer habits regarding groceries. More and more people are opting for own-brand products over loyalty to their familiar name brands. According to environmental organisation Hubbub, one in four Brits now chooses own-brand products more often when shopping. This trend is borne out by the latest figures from Kantar, which show that sales of own-label items have risen 2.9% over the last 12 weeks while sales of branded products have fallen by 1%.

However, this is not the complete story. The value own-label lines of supermarkets such as Co-op Honest Value, Sainsbury’s Imperfectly Tasty, and Asda’s newly-launched Just Essentials range surged 12%. Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy said staples such as pasta, bread and beans, which have seen the most significant price increases, have experienced the most considerable shift to own brand.

There are several reasons why this shift is taking place. For many people, the cost is a significant factor. Own-brand products are often cheaper than their branded counterparts, which makes them an attractive option for budget-conscious customers and shoppers who search for the cheapest products looking for price-matching or other discounts.

Why Own-Brand Food Products?

Our Fairway Assured Yorkshire Pudding range is available in 3″, 4″ and 7″.

Own-brand, also known as private-label food products, are a viable alternative to big-name, commercially branded offerings. In essence, they are products made by a manufacturer but sold under a supermarket or food wholesaler’s brand name. This concept isn’t new, as supermarkets have been selling their own-brand products for years, often sitting in their store alongside their branded counterparts on the shelves.

In the context of school budgets, own-label products have two significant advantages: affordability and comparable quality.

Pricing and Affordability

Perhaps the most compelling reason to switch to own-brand food products is the potential for cost savings especially in a period of rising food prices. Due to lower marketing and advertising expenses, own-brand products can be priced more competitively than their branded counterparts. When purchasing at the scale required for a school catering service, even slight savings per item can amount to significant overall reductions spend. This could be a game-changer for schools operating under strict budgetary constraints.

Quality and Taste

Our newly launched Fairway Assured Fish Fingers

While some might express initial reservations about the quality and taste of own-brand products, a closer look dispels these concerns. A significant proportion of own-brand products are manufactured in the same factories as their more expensive branded counterparts, often to the same specifications and quality standards. This means that schools can maintain the same taste profiles that students are accustomed to, while also reaping the benefits of lower costs.

Additionally, some manufacturers are increasing their focus on nutrition, recognizing the growing consumer demand for healthier options. Schools can leverage this trend to offer healthier, yet still affordable, meals to their students.

Supporting Local Economies

Own brands also offer the potential for supporting local economies. Schools can choose to work with local wholesalers to develop their own-brand category products. This not only benefits the local economy but can also improve the quality of the food offered in school canteens.

A Win-Win Solution

Switching to own-brand food products represents a unique opportunity for schools to improve their food service offerings while also easing the pressure on their budgets. The savings realised from making this switch can then be redirected to other crucial areas like educational resources, infrastructure improvements, or student support services.

As with any significant change, it’s crucial to do the necessary research and involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process. But with the potential benefits at hand, the switch to own-brand food products is an option that more and more schools may find worth considering.

Ultimately, the move towards own-brand food products can result in a win-win situation – schools can save money without compromising on the taste and quality of the food they provide, and students can continue enjoying meals they love while benefiting from the improved resources funded by the savings.


Fairway Assured Burger and Chip range

As a caterer, you know that finding the right ingredients is essential to creating delicious dishes that kids will love. That’s why we created our own brand range of high-quality catering products, Fairway Assured.

It comprises a growing portfolio of over 600 brand-leader products emphasising superior quality, price, taste, and consistency, often with higher ingredient ratios and winning out in blind taste tests. Every product is on a constant and ongoing improvement cycle through benchmarking and rolling in feedback from caterers and food experts.

Choose Fairway Assured for exceptional value, taste and quality.

Explore the Fairway Assured range here


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