Many of our younger and innovative food companies are set to benefit substantially from an exciting new scheme introduced by the Henderson Group, in their EUROSPAR stores.
Last weekend’s Blas na hEireann Awards again showcased the outstanding innovation of smaller companies in the 35 medals awarded, including 10 golds, to local companies. I congratulate all the successful companies, many Food NI members.
Shoppers across Northern Ireland are being given the opportunity to enjoy food products they probably won’t have tasted before in the scheme by Henderson’s to support our ‘hidden gems’. Around 50 products from an initial group of 13 smaller companies, most of them Food NI members, are now going on the shelves and chillers of 28 EUROSPAR supermarkets right across Northern Ireland. Among Food NI members included are Cavanagh Free Range Eggs, Erne Larder, Irish Black Butter, Finnebrogue Artisan, and Clandeboye Yoghurt.
While several supermarkets here have ‘academies’ that help food producers get to grips with their exacting business procedures, the initiative from Henderson’s is different in that its focus is on sole traders and smaller businesses.
I commend the Henderson Group for the support for these enterprises. What it will do is to help them gain knowledge and experience of working with a major wholesaler especially in areas such as pricing, logistics and marketing. The group has vast expertise in the food business and will offer these businesses access to that knowledge and, of course, a vast distribution network.
Many sole traders and smaller producers start on their journey at markets and especially in developing sales to stores, farm shops and delis in their local area. They find moving beyond their immediate area time consuming and expensive. Most also find it difficult to factor this into their costs and their margins can be undermined very easily. They know it’s essential to get beyond their local area for worthwhile growth.
The Henderson’s scheme addresses this problem very effectively. The companies deliver to a central warehouse for onward distribution to the 28 EUROSPAR supermarkets. The imaginative scheme will also help them with central billing and management of stock control and production.
I also understand that the group has not put a time limit on when it expects to see the products justifying their position in the stores and will give the companies a reasonable time to win the hearts of shoppers. In addition, it will help the companies in promotional activities.
The decision to include the new products alongside those from existing suppliers is also important in that it keeps the produce in the relevant category and makes it easier for shoppers to find them.
We’ll be encouraging and supporting our companies to help them grasp the opportunity provided by Henderson’s for growth in both long and short terms. We see it as an immensely important initiative and will support Henderson’s to ensure its success. It’s hugely encouraging that the wholesaler has indicated that other companies will be evaluated for the scheme in the months ahead.
Another area in which we can help Henderson’s and the participating companies is by means of our own promotional activities which include an extensive commitment to social media and other promotional techniques.
I also urge readers of this column to back the initiative by actively seeking out the new products as well as those from established suppliers. Buying more local food and drink is good for the enterprising industry here and for the wider economy. It means economic wellbeing and greater employment opportunities.