Invest Northern Ireland helped a major UK supermarket chain in its bid to increase the range of locally made niche products it sells.
Twenty local food companies were given the chance to pitch their products to the UK’s second biggest supermarket chain, ASDA, in a Meet the Buyer event held at Invest NI’s Bedford Square headquarters in Belfast.
The event is the second such networking opportunity to be held by Invest NI this year in conjunction with one of the UK’s main food retailers.
As well as conducting one-on-one meetings with local food companies, key buyers from ASDA were given the opportunity to sample a wide range of local products from ice-cream, to cheese, cider and popcorn.
Commenting on the event Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Director of Food, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for local food and drink businesses to sell their products directly to one of the UK’s leading food retailers, one with a local sourcing policy that accommodates suppliers that may only have the capacity to supply a single store.”
He continued: “All of the companies involved in the event realise that in order to achieve profitable sales they must offer innovative, highly differentiated products that specifically meet the needs of their target customer base.”
All companies attending the event were given the opportunity to hear from ASDA’s Northern Ireland Trading and Marketing Manager, Paul Farrell, who highlighted the company’s commitment to further increase its local supply base.
“Our aim is to increase our Northern Ireland supply base by 30% and to offer our customers even further choice and value across all our local stores. Our customers tell us they want to buy locally produced products and so we are confident our meetings with some local niche food companies who are currently producing innovative, added-value products that will appeal to our customers, will result in a win-win situation for both the companies themselves, the ASDA customer and the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.
“We are interested in working with companies who have the type of products that will appeal to our customers no matter if they can only supply one store or all 13 in Northern Ireland,” he continued.
The Meet the Buyer events are part of a number of different initiatives under Invest NI’s ongoing programme of sales and marketing support for local companies, one which has brought much success. At the Kilmainham Speciality Food Forum in May this year, 20 new listings were achieved with GB specialty food buyers, and assistance was also given to securing a £300,000 order in Scotland through the work of the Invest NI food sales team.
The event also forms part of the work of the Food Strategy Implementation Partnership’s ‘Fit for Market’ report, being delivered by Invest NI and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which recommends that local companies develop market-led products. The participating companies have all developed innovative products that show an understanding of shifts in consumer behaviour.