Willowbrook Farm signs major deal with Co-Operative supermarkets

Willowbrook Farm in Killinchy, which has British Retail Consortium certification at “higher” level status, has secured business from the Co-Operative for lettuce bags throughout supermarkets in the United Kingdom that could be worth more than £1 million this year.

The contract establishes Willowbrook Farm, one of Northern Ireland’s most successful food processors, as a major supplier to the Co-Operative’s extensive UK network of supermarkets.

Willowbrook’s latest contract from outside Northern Ireland was announced by John McCann, the company’s Managing Director, during a visit by Maynard Mawhinney, Invest Northern Ireland’s Food Division Director. Invest NI has assisted the company with its export marketing, and most recently with its new branding through the successful Design Development Programme.

Mr McCann said: “The Co-Operative’s decision to increase substantially the products it sources from Willowbrook Farm is a marvellous endorsement of the quality of our products and the close attention that we pay to customer services in terms of delivery and innovative products. The Co-Operative has become a very valued customer and we look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with the organisation.  

“Our focus is on adding significant value to our products and services. Over the past few years we’ve concentrated on building business with retailers and food service companies in

Great Britain and the Republic.  As a result, 80 per cent of our business is now outside Northern Ireland.

“The encouragement and practical support we’ve received from Invest Northern Ireland and the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development have been invaluable as we’ve sought to expand sales outside Northern Ireland and create jobs and wealth within the local Killinchy community,” he added.

Welcoming Willowbrook’s latest success, Mr Mawhinney said: “This is a very progressive and market led company which has experienced rapid sales growth over the past five years. Turnover has increased more than tenfold through the development of strong supply arrangements with a number of retail multiple and food service customers, including exclusive supplier status with Superquinn and preferred supplier status with the Co-Operative in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“We’ve been working closely with management to help the company strengthen its market shares in Great Britain and the Republic. I’ve been impressed by the company’s competitiveness, its speed in following up leads and its highly flexible and responsive approach to customers,” he added.

Willowbrook Farm produces a range of pre-packed vegetable and salad products and operates from a modern processing facility located in Co Down. The business was established 34 years ago by Mr McCann on a 140 acre farm specialising in vegetables.

It’s sources and processes raw materials for the farm, other local suppliers and wholesalers in France, Spain and the Netherlands. It currently employs around 150 people and has taken part in a range of Invest NI marketing initiatives such as ‘meet the buyer’ events and major food exhibitions. It recently struck a deal with Musgrave/SuperValu for pre-packed salads that could be worth £3 million.