Ex-Ulster Rugby players' food firm lands £340k Lidl supply deal

L-R: Lidl buying director Chris Bell with Hellbent founders Schalk Van der Merwe and Louis Ludik.

A FOOD business started by two former Ulster Rugby players has signed a six figure supply deal with Lidl.

The all-island supply contract with the German retailer is worth £340,000 for Louis Ludik and Schalk Van der Merwe's Co Down-based spicy meat start-up Hellbent.

It comes as Lidl announced the reopening of its ‘Kick Start' supplier development programme.

Now in its fifth year, the scheme is targeted at artisan producers in the north, offering a supermarket platform to build their supply network.

The boerewors specialist launched by the South African-born rugby players was among last year's programme participants, securing a limited promotion in all 215 Lidl shops on the island.

They have now progressed to a permanent supply deal.

Louis Ludik said the scheme was an incredible boost for the business.

“It's a great way for any small business to get a taste of what it takes to supply a major retailer,” he said.

“The programme supported us at every level – from help to upscale production and meet larger orders, to marketing and business management support and of course enabling us to reach more customers than ever with our products.”

Lidl buying director Chris Bell said more than 50 artisan artisan products and dozens of local businesses have benefitted from the scheme, including Copeland Gin in Donaghadee, Refuge Hot Chocolate brewed in Belfast and Noisy Snacks from Newtownards.

“Hellbent were fantastic to work with last year as part of the ‘Kick Start' programme and the new deal announced today represents exactly what the initiative is all about – growing small and medium-sized producers to realise their full potential.

“As we launch the 2022 programme, I'm excited to see what this year's intake yields."

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