Asda NI’s Supplier Development Academy to Boost Local Agri-Food Sector

Leading retailer, Asda, has reinforced its commitment to Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector with the launch of a bespoke ‘Supplier Development Academy’ (SDA) – the first retail-led partnership of its kind to help the local food sector maximise its business potential.

Eleven of Northern Ireland’s key local suppliers have been hand-selected by Asda NI’s buying team to participate in the four-month programme. The £125k investment – jointly funded by Asda and Invest NI – aims to boost the suppliers’ potential by up to 30%, promote innovation, and take the sector a step closer to meeting the Government’s £4.5bn output target.

The workshop-based Academy covers areas ranging from product development/innovation, sales maximisation and marketing techniques to streamlined account management. The goal is to equip participants with the valuable tools they need to optimise their trading partnership with Asda and also to maximise their business strategy through collaboration, mentoring and best practise.

Suppliers taking part in the Academy include Quinfresh, White’s, Neill’s Flour, Mash Direct, Doherty & Gray, Gilfresh, Linwoods, The Really Good Food Company, Flynn’s Fine Foods, Cloughbane Farm, and James Doherty Meats,

Following a successful trial in Scotland in 2011, where suppliers benefited from sales increases of up to 36% (equating to £1.6m), David Quigg from Asda’s NI Buying Team believes there is no better time to roll out the Academy across Northern Ireland.

“Not only is this an significant investment in NI’s food sector, but it also represents economic benefits for all involved as success and growth for our suppliers also means success for the local agri-food sector and for Asda.

“Since opening in Northern Ireland in 2005 we have developed a strong and growing supply base and our emphasis through the inaugural SDA is to develop these relationships and help each business reach a new level – which could mean trading with Asda on a national or potentially international platform.”

Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI Food Director, said: “Working with Asda on this initiative is another important development in our work to assist smaller food companies in particular to find out what major UK retailers expect from suppliers and how to build worthwhile business with them.

“Our food sector marketing advisors have been working closely with the Asda team to support the retailer’s immensely encouraging commitment to purchase more food and drink products from Northern Ireland suppliers. The information gained, advice provided and contacts made will enable participating companies to take whatever steps necessary to shape existing products and, perhaps, develop innovative solutions that meet Asda’s specific requirements.”

Brian McQuaid from James Doherty Meats added:  “We regard this as a great opportunity and are delighted to be one of the first 11 local companies to be involved. Not only will it further cement our relationship with Asda but will offer us the scope to develop our business and our brands across many different levels.”