Sales initiative generates £800,000 for food SMEs in Great Britain

Around £800,000 of new business in Great Britain has been generated for six smaller food and drink firms from an agreement between Invest Northern Ireland and Nicco Foods, a leading European sales and marketing operation.

In May 2008, Invest NI contracted Nicco Foods to help introduce several smaller companies to opportunities, particularly with leading grocery retailers in Great Britain. Since then, the participating companies have secured new orders worth £791,000 from leading grocery chains including Spar, Aldi, Nisa, Booths, Makro, P&H and Netto.

Nicco Foods, which operates throughout Europe from its base at Winsford in Cheshire, is projecting sales for 2010 for its portfolio of Northern Ireland companies to top the £2 million mark.  Among local companies benefiting from Nicco’s sales expertise in Great Britain are: Jennings Bakery, Larne; Western Brand Poultry, Lisnaskea; Graham’s Bakery, Dromore; McColgan’s, Strabane and Take the Biscuit, Ballymena. Successful products range from poultry portions to butterfly buns.

In addition, Nicco is also in discussions with several other local companies interested in taking part in the initiative.

Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, said: “The sales achieved by local companies through this engagement with Nicco Foods are very encouraging.

“Invest NI’s decision to launch the initiative with Nicco was influenced by a recognition that many smaller food and drink companies here could benefit from having access to an experienced and successful sales and marketing operation on the ground in Great Britain, our most important market and one which continues to offer significant opportunities for products across a broad range of sectors including bakery.

“Nicco also offered access to many of the most important grocery retailers throughout Britain including all the main food chains, symbol groups and discounters. The initiative gave our companies the opportunity to benefit from Nicco’s experience and reputation with these retailers.

“They have also been able to draw of Nicco’s knowledge of the industry in areas such as new product development, merchandising, packaging and distribution gained over many years in the fast moving food marketing business. Those who have already taken part have learned a great deal about the industry from Nicco Foods,” he added.

Invest NI has also launched a major initiative to assist local food and drink companies win more business from public and private tenders in Great Britain and the Republic, a market worth £4 billion last year.  Twelve local companies, mostly small and medium-sized manufacturers, are taking part in the recently launched Food and Drink Sector Tendering Programme.

The new programme aims to provide participating companies with the skills, knowledge and ‘can-do’ attitude to identify tender opportunities and create distinctive bids that increase the chances securing new business.

David Nickisson, Chairman and Managing Director of Nicco Foods, who founded the business in 1993, said: “We’ve found that Northern Ireland has food and drink companies with great potential in Great Britain and we’ve been working closely with a number of businesses to help them adapt to the challenges on what is a very substantial and demanding marketplace. This has involved advising and steering companies on the steps they need to take to realise the potential of their products.

“From our experience and regular contacts with food buyers we have been able to spot opportunities for existing products from Northern Ireland companies, introduce them to key decision makers, advise on how best to meet their pricing, delivery and packaging requirements, and also on market intelligence in terms of new products being sought by grocery chains in Britain.

“Our expertise covers frozen, chilled and ambient products for branded and private label in retailing as well as catering and ‘food to go’ organisations throughout Britain,” he added.