Business

Lidl crunches new £11m supply deal with fresh food producer Willowbrook

Pictured celebrating the announcement are (from left) Enya Rooney, senior buyer at Lidl NI; John McCann, founder and CEO of Willowbrook Foods; and Tanya Neilson, new product development and hub innovation manager at Willowbrook. Picture: Phil Smyth

LIDL Northern Ireland has awarded Newtownards fresh food producer Willowbrook Foods an expanded supply deal worth £11 million – nearly double its previous contract - to supply 25 new lines of fresh convenience foods across its network of 210 stores throughout Ireland.

Established in 1968 by the McCann family, Willowbrook is Ireland's largest salad and vegetable processing company, operating from its two sites on the shores of Strangford Lough, and has been supplying Lidl NI with premium bagged salads and fresh deli products since 2011.

The new contract represents an 83 per cent boost on last year, taking the former £6 million annual contract to £11 million, and will see 25 new product lines introduced across its premium range of ready meals, stir fry and deli salads.

Enya Rooney, senior buyer at Lidl Northern Ireland, said: “We have a long-standing partnership with Willowbrook Foods and over the years have seen the company enjoy exponential growth. As a supporter of local agri-food producers, we’re delighted to reaffirm our commitment to the partnership and provide a significant sales boost through this expanded new contract.

“Willowbrook Foods is continually innovating to introduce new lines in response to changing consumer demand. We’ve seen a real increase in demand for our fresh convenience foods range and we’re excited to now launch an expanded line of great tasting, home-grown salads, cold deli foods and stir fry meals to thousands of customers across the island of Ireland.”

Willowbrook Foods opened its £5.5 million state-of-the-art production facility in 2011 to support its ambitious growth plans and enhance production capability.

The site is also home to its dedicated New Product Development (NPD) hub where it operates an innovation centre utilising the latest food production technology. In addition, the company operates a cooking facility at its site in Newtownards where it manufactures ready-meal products.

John McCann, founder and chief executive of Willowbrook Foods, said: “Since our early days we have been a leader in providing premium prepared fresh vegetables and salads, cooked and ready to cook products. Over the last 50 years we've focused on mastering our craft of growing the highest quality, great tasting vegetables and continually developing our product offering.

“Key to our success is our established partnership with Lidl Northern Ireland. As the region’s fastest-growing supermarket, we’ve been able to realise our ambitious growth plans, break into new markets, reach new customers and grow our brand exponentially through the partnership.

“Willowbrook Foods is delighted to secure this increased supply deal with Lidl Northern Ireland and embark on a new period of growth whilst providing its 300,000 weekly shoppers in the region with a fantastic new range of locally grown, quality products to enjoy.”

Since the beginning of its relationship with Willowbrook a decade ago, the Lidl supply deal has helped to create 100 new full-time roles, in addition to providing access to sales in the UK and Republic of Ireland markets.

An independent report into the economic impact of Lidl NI’s operations revealed that the retailer spends at least £290 million a year with suppliers across the north while also supporting 3,500 jobs.

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