As many grocers compete for the lowest price, Marks & Spencer takes a different approach by prioritising quality in its products.

Unlike rivals, we haven’t brought down the price of a four-pint carton of milk to below £1.

But our milk sales have not declined. Why? Because our milk has less saturated fat. It’s a point of difference. That’s great quality.

We pay farmers the best price in the market and our milk is segregated – M&S farms produce M&S milk. We know exactly which cows our milk comes from. That’s great provenance.

We pay more money for our beef than others do. Why? Because we specify the breeds and only select the best farmers and cattle. We know where it comes from. We know the field it came from. We know who its parents were.

Before the horse meat scandal, we didn’t test our beef products to see if it was beef. We were using DNA technology to test them to make sure they were the right breed of cow, sired by registered bulls.

The race to the bottom on price helps no one. You can always make stuff cheaper, but normally it involves removing something. In the extreme case of horse meat, that was the dominant raw material itself.

To protect your brand and to protect your customer in the future, acting with integrity has become a value you cannot do without.

It’s only now that we fully understand how horse meat happened and what the industry needs to do to make sure something similar doesn’t happen ever again.

We were the only major retailer that didn’t recall a product during the crisis. Our values and our business model – with fewer, shorter supply chains and longstanding supplier relationships – protected our suppliers and our brand.

But this is no time for complacency. When we identify credible risks and challenges we make changes and we do it now. Not when we get hauled in front of the FSA. Not when we’ve had a phone call from the media.

From April we will have two audits for every supplier – a food safety audit to protect the customer and an integrity audit to protect our brand. The former will be announced and collaborative. It needs to be as we like to see the factory at 4am before production starts to see that it’s clean. The latter will be totally unannounced. We expect to be on the factory floor or in the office working within 15 minutes of arrival.

We will also take raw material samples and send them for testing for DNA, country of origin, composition and other relevant tests.

This isn’t designed to catch our suppliers out, but to encourage our suppliers and their suppliers to take the integrity of the raw materials and ingredients we use every day with the utmost diligence.

We have worked collaboratively with our suppliers to build this approach over the last 12 months.

I’m very confident that this approach will strengthen our relationship with our long-term supply partners.

The only people who need to worry about this new approach are those attempting to do the wrong thing.

Taken from a speech to the Institute for Global Food Security on February 5