Carrefour develops a taste for Ballymena sausages

Top European food retailer Carrefour has listed Irish farmhouse styled pork sausages from Doherty and Gray in Ballymena for sale in supermarkets across Spain. The listing, Doherty and Gray’s first with Carrefour, follows the company’s participation in a joint Invest Northern Ireland/Livestock and Meat Commission ‘meet the buyer’ initiative.

The initiative included a visit to Madrid and a return trip to Northern Ireland by senior buyers from Spanish retailers and foodservices organisations. Carrefour took part in the visit to Northern Ireland and is now including Doherty and Gray’s range of Rankin Selection Irish pork sausages in its chill cabinets and deli counters. Spain’s second biggest grocery chain, Carrefour has over 3,000 stores and a 17 per cent share of one of Europe’s most significant and discerning food markets.

The deal with Carrefour was announced today by Seamus Doherty, Doherty and Gray’s Retail Products Director, and welcomed by Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director.

Mr Doherty said: “Gaining a listing with such a prestigious European food retailer is a marvellous endorsement of the outstanding quality and rich flavours of our Rankin Selection range of sausages. This joint initiative by Invest NI and the Livestock and Meat Commission was extremely important in that it brought us face-to-face with Carrefour’s meat buyers. We then followed up the contacts made in Madrid and provided a range of product samples, which clearly impressed them.

“But gaining this foothold is only the start; we now have to grow sales by reaching out to Spanish consumers familiar with chorizo and their own products and to persuade them to enjoy the distinctive and different taste of our Irish pork sausages,”  added Mr Doherty.

Mr Mawhinney added: “This is excellent news for Doherty and Gray and gives them a tremendous opportunity to enter the Spanish market and to develop contacts throughout the Carrefour group. The company has followed leads from our business development initiatives assiduously and successfully.

“It’s also a further example of the value of our very extensive ‘meet the buyer’ programme. When we launched the programme two years ago, our objective was to identify key buyers for our companies in as many major food organisations as possible, in as many markets as practicable, and then to set up meetings for local producers.

“In this period, we’ve arranged buying sessions for our companies with retailers and food services organisations from Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and India, as well as all the leading players in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland,” he added.

The range of sausages listed by Carrefour are Irish pork, pork and spring onion, and pork and herb. They are produced in a natural casing with no added artificial flavours or colouring.

Established in 1954, Doherty and Gray is Northern Ireland’s second oldest red meat processing business. The family-owned and managed business operates from a modern EC approved processing plant and specialises in the supply of beef and lamb to customers in Great Britain and other parts of Europe.

The company has developed a range of branded products including the Rankin Selection of Irish pork sausages and burgers. These products were developed in association with Paul Rankin, the Irish celebrity chef.

Rankin Selection products now contribute around half of the company’s sales of sausages. Virtually all the existing range of Rankin Irish pork sausages, first introduced in 2005, are now sold outside Northern Ireland, mostly to customers in Great Britain.

It already supplies this range of sausages to major food retailers such as Morrisons, Sainsbury and Waitrose in Great Britain, as well as Tesco and Asda in Northern Ireland.