Co Down bakery latest NI food firm to sign all-island supply deal with Lidl

Timothy Graham, business development manager at Grahams Bakery with Lidl buyer Ciara Moran.
Timothy Graham, business development manager at Grahams Bakery with Lidl buyer Ciara Moran. Timothy Graham, business development manager at Grahams Bakery with Lidl buyer Ciara Moran.

CO Down bakery Grahams has become the latest Northern Ireland food business to sign a new all-island supply deal with supermarket chain Lidl.

The German retailer said the supply contract for cakes and baked treats will be worth at least £2.5 million per year to the Dromore company.

It will see the family-owned bakery’s goods stocked in 215 Lidl stores across the island.

Last month Holywood-based spicy meat maker Hellbent secured an all-island deal worth an estimated £340,000, while Newtownards-based fresh food producer Willowbrook Foods, struck a £11m deal last September to supply 24 new lines to Lidl’s network of stores across the island.

It comes after a report published in December confirmed a significant shift in companies in the Republic switching their supply lines from Britain to Northern Ireland under the post-Brexit protocol.

The study by Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Department of Finance in Dublin found that the uptake in goods sourced in the north has been driven by the food and drink sector.

According to ESRI: “This supply reorientation means that the share of Irish imports from the UK originating in Northern Ireland has increased from six per cent to over 40 per cent.”

Last month the Republic’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) said the value of goods moving across the Irish border continued to increase significantly in the first quarter of 2022.

North to south exports hit almost €4bn (£3.35bn) in the first 12 months of the Northern Ireland Protocol in 2021, an annual increase of 65 per cent.

The CSO said exports from Northern Ireland into the Republic rose by another 34 per cent (£250m) in the first quarter of 2022 to £986m.

Commenting on the latest deal, Lidl buyer Ciara Moran said the retailer places value on its local supplier partnerships.

“We’re proud to work with an ever-growing network of more than over 50 local artisan food and drink producers to provide shoppers with an expanded choice of quality, homegrown produce,” she said.

“We’re delighted to expand our much-loved confectionary range with this new partnership. Grahams Bakery is one of the region’s most successful independent family bakeries and we’re confident that our new products will be a real hit with shoppers.”

Set up by May and Dennis Graham in 1956, Grahams Bakery is now in the hands of a third generation of the family.

May Graham’s grandson Timothy, now business development manager, said the company had evolved from a small bakeshop into an operation with more than 20 product lines.

“As we continue to carry on my grandmother’s legacy, we’re thrilled to secure a new deal with Northern Ireland’s fastest-growing supermarket to further expand the business,” he said.

“The support from Lidl Northern Ireland means we can share our range of delicious family recipes with a growing number of customers across the island of Ireland.”

Meanwhile Lidl has confirmed it has moved to take greater control over its global supply lines by starting its own cargo business – Tailwind Shipping Lines.

Lidl is understood to have chartered three containerships to date, and has reportedly bought its own ship.

In a statement, Lidl said it will continue to rely to a large extent on shipping companies, but added: “This is another component for securing our supply chains and the availability of goods in our stores.”