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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Co Antrim’s artisan producers securing a place on Lidl NI’s supplier development programme

Blackfire Food, Green Fingers Family and Sweet Robyn’s from Co Antrim have been picked for this year’s Kickstart Supplier Development Programme which will showcase their products in Lidl stores this September

Blackfire Food, Green Fingers Family and Sweet Robyn’s from Co Antrim have been picked for this year’s Kickstart Supplier Development Programme which will showcase their products in Lidl stores this September

 

Lidl Northern Ireland is set to give a ‘Kickstart’ to four Co. Antrim artisans selected as part of a new batch of 13 local producers from across Northern Ireland who successfully earned a place on the retailer’s coveted Kickstart Supplier Development Programme.

 

Representing the best across the county, Blackfire Food, Green Fingers Family and Sweet Robyn’s were handpicked for the programme after an intensive application process which saw producers put through their paces with a business pitch to Lidl’s buying team and a taste test to select the best in category.



The Antrim artisans will now see their locally crafted products, ranging from hot sauces, energy balls and protein bars, amongst 33 new products on sale in 220 Lidl stores across the island of Ireland from September 19th for a limited time, while stocks last.

 

Since launching in the region in 2018, Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart initiative has invested more than £2 million in supporting 29 local agri-food producers and showcasing more than 50 innovative home-grown products, offering small and medium-sized producers the opportunity to reach over 2 million weekly Lidl customers across the island of Ireland and get a foot up in breaking into the competitive supermarket retail sector.

 

The programme has also facilitated export of home-grown produce through Lidl’s international store network, boosting local businesses.



Now in its seventh year, Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart programme is backed by the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA) and aims to support small and medium-sized local producers to boost their brand, enhance their supply and reach new customer audiences.

 

Before the products hit the shelves, this six-month development programme will offer the suppliers dedicated business support from Lidl Northern Ireland’s in-house experts, advancing their product, brand and business with practical guidance on how to scale production, drive production efficiency, as well as product development and packaging support, allowing them to optimise on-shelf opportunities in the autumn and scale for success.



Kate O’Driscoll, Supplier Development Manager at Lidl Ireland, said:

 

“Northern Ireland is a region famed for its food and drink and every year I’m impressed by the innovation, quality and craftsmanship that suppliers clearly pour into their products. The standard is always incredibly high and this year was no exception.

 

“After a competitive application process, I’m delighted to add 13 local suppliers to our Kickstart programme this year and bring 33 new, locally made products to shoppers across the region.

 

“What makes Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart programme so impactful is that we can immediately facilitate export opportunities for all successful suppliers that make it onto the programme. Not only do they have the opportunity to sell their products locally within our regional network of 41 stores, but also within our 179 stores located in the Republic of Ireland, reaching more than 2 million weekly shoppers which is a huge boost for small businesses.

 

“We’ve also worked with Kickstart suppliers to further grow their reach through our wider store network, including supplying our Lidl GB stores with Hellbent’s deliciously tasty Shakalaka Boerewors, bringing a taste of home to even more audiences.



“As a retailer committed to sourcing locally and supporting our agri-food industry, we are proud to champion quality products at great value, delivering on our ‘Big on Quality, Lidl on Price’ promise for our customers.”

 

Along with products from Co. Antrim’s Blackfire Food, Green Fingers Family and Sweet Robyn’s, this year’s intake will also see products from some of the best up-and-coming producers across Northern Ireland including Bertie’s Bakery, Cloughbane Farm Foods, Mrs K Global, Lecale Harvest, Long Meadow Cider, Rosie’s Bakes, SLICED, Armagh Cider Company, Strangford Coffee Roastery and Woodlab Distillery.

 

Michael Bell, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said:

 

We are thrilled to team up with Lidl Northern Ireland to launch its successful Kickstart programme, and to welcome 13 incredible producers from Northern Ireland on board as they embrace this fantastic opportunity to promote their products.



“Securing a place on the programme is a huge achievement for local SME producers, often providing them with a game-changing break into the competitive grocery market along with ongoing business support as they work to fulfill their potential.

 

“Food and drink is Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturing sector, contributing almost £6 billion in value to the region and accounting for more than 30% of total manufacturing employment. It’s a huge driver of economic growth and further underscores the need for initiatives such as Lidl Northern Ireland’s Kickstart programme to further grow our agri-food industry and cultivate home-grown suppliers.”


Full list of Lidl Northern Ireland's Kickstart 2024 products

 

The Lidl Kickstart Supplier Development Programme is just one of the many ways in which the retailer supports the local economy.

 

In 2023, Lidl Northern Ireland significantly boosted the local agri-food industry, procuring £455 million across the region, representing a 30% rise, year on year. Of this, 80% percent of the goods are shipped outside Northern Ireland, using Lidl’s expansive international store network.

 

As the retailer marked its 25th anniversary in the region last month, a major economic report revealed that it contributed a record £360 million into the local economy in 2023 – doubling its annual economic contribution over the past five years – and supported almost 7,000 jobs right across the region.

 

For more information on the Kickstart Supplier Development Programme, visit lidl-ni.co.uk/kickstart



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