Business

Fresh batch of producers given 'Kickstart' on to Lidl's shelves

Celebrating the launch of the 2021 Lidl Northern Ireland Kickstart programme are (from left) Sarah Matson, sales marketing executive at Natural Umber; Liz Taylor, partner at Glastry Farm; Shenda O’Hare, sales manager at Killowen Distillery; Michael Bell, chief executive of the NI Food & Drink Association; Noel Mills, director at Mourne Dew Distillery; William Mayne from Bullhouse Brewing Company; Gillian Castles, account manager of Holmes Bakery; Kate O’Driscoll, senior food promotions manager at Lidl NI; and Louis Ludik, director at Hellbent

LIDL will showcase the best and newest of local home-grown produce across Ireland from this Thursday this week as 18 new food and drink products hit the shelves of its 210 stores as part of the retailer's Kickstart supplier development programme.

From flavoured gins distilled with locally-grown botanicals, to succulent South African-inspired meats, authentic Irish poitin, refreshing craft beer and melt-in-the-mouth sorbets and ice-creams, this year eight Northern Irish producers were selected to have their products make it on to Lidl's shelves.

The Kickstart programme (www.lidl-ni.co.uk/kickstart), now in its fourth year, is designed to help local SME food and drink producers grow their brand, build their supply network and reach new customer audiences, upping their potential to open up new export opportunities.

Since its launch, more than 50 Northern Irish products and dozens of local businesses have participated.

And this year, Lidl Northern Ireland has partnered with the NI Food & Drink Association (NIFDA) to provide additional benefits and opportunities to selected suppliers.

NIFDA chief executive Michael Bell said: “We have a sustainable and growing internationally competitive food and drink industry here in Northern Ireland and the Lidl Kickstart initiative is a fantastic way for smaller producers to break into the competitive grocery market and get a taste for what it really takes to supply to a major retailer.”

A recent report published by NIFDA found that the local food and drink sector is the second largest goods exporter, contributing £4.9 billion in value added to the region.

“As a key driver of economic growth, it's important to nurture local suppliers, and Lidl Northern Ireland is certainly leading the way in cultivating a new crop of outstanding, home-grown suppliers through its Kickstart initiative and wider supplier partnerships”, Michael added.

As well as the limited edition in-store promotion, Kickstart also provides ambitious producers with free business development seminars delivered by a panel of Lidl and wider industry experts, covering key disciplines such as quality control, supply chain management, branding and distribution.

Kate O'Driscoll, senior food promotions manager at Lidl Northern Ireland, said: “Since its inception, Kickstart has featured over 50 artisan products and led dozens of Northern Irish producers to success, including Copeland Gin in Donaghadee, Refuge Hot Chocolate brewed in Belfast and Noisy Snacks from Newtownards to name just a few.

“Our programme is unique in that it offers suppliers a full business support package, from seminars and training, to networking, one-to-one mentorship as well as in-store promotional sales opportunities for our 300,000 weekly customers to try an amazing line up of fresh new, locally-made products.

“We're thrilled to showcase and support many brand new Northern Irish producers this year and to welcome back two suppliers from last year's programme who continue to see the benefits of a ‘Lidl' Kickstart.”

New for 2021, South African Ulster rugby stars Louis Ludik and Schalk Van der Merwe scored a coveted place on the Kickstart programme with their succulent Hellbent Burgers and Chakalaka.

Louis said: “We've seen first-hand how this programme can really boost a small business like ours. We plan to use this opportunity to scale up production and take the next step in breaking into new markets and reaching a bigger audience.”

The selected range of artisan products featured within this year's Kickstart programme includes six new suppliers - Glastry Farm Ice Cream churned in Kircubbin; South African inspired meat products from Hellbent in Newtownards; Irish poitin and premium gin from Mourne Dew Distillery in Warrenpoint; a range of flavoured gins produced by Killowen Distillery; Belfast based craft beer brewers Bullhouse Brewery; and Holmes Bakery Irish Biscuits from Portadown.

Returning to the shelves are a range of new lines from suppliers including Dungannon's Natural Umber Apple Cider Vinegar and Newry-based Little Meat Company with a selection of four meat pies.

Kickstart is just one of the many ways in which the retailer supports local suppliers. Earlier this year Lidl NI confirmed a new and expanded contract with Irwin's Bakery after a successful 20-year partnership worth more than £50 million. Under the new supply deal, worth £2.7 million annually, the family-run bakery will continue to supply customer favourites including Nutty Krust batch bread, Irwin's Veda malted loaf and Jammy Joey's buns to Lidl stores across the island of Ireland.

In April, Lidl Northern Ireland struck a deal worth £500,000 annually with Co Antrim coffee roasters SlumberJack Coffee to supply their Italian Espresso whole bean and ground coffee across all 210 Lidl stores in Ireland.

Last year, Lidl Northern Ireland announced a new supply deal worth £24m with Fermanagh based bakery, Crust & Crumb, for an expanded pizza line.

Since the beginning of its relationship with Crust & Crumb in 2013, Lidl NI's supply deal has helped to create 160 new full-time roles, in addition to improving access to sales in the UK, Ireland and EU markets.

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