Local suppliers hoping to be named ‘Best in Show’

Launching the 2017 Local Supplier Awards is Paddy Doody, sales and marketing director, Henderson Group; Neal Kelly, Henderson Fresh Food director, and Lyndsey-Anne Coulter from Willowbrook Foods who were the overall winners at last year's awards
Launching the 2017 Local Supplier Awards is Paddy Doody, sales and marketing director, Henderson Group; Neal Kelly, Henderson Fresh Food director, and Lyndsey-Anne Coulter from Willowbrook Foods who were the overall winners at last year's awards
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Henderson Group has launched its Local Supplier Awards for 2017, demonstrating the group’s commitment to supporting Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry.

Now in their fifth year, the awards give local suppliers a platform to showcase their excellent products, practises and ranges and will take place during a special breakfast ceremony at this year’s extended Balmoral Show.

We primarily source from local growers, and only look to further fields if absolutely necessary: Recently, we have seen the difficulties that can arise for supermarkets depending on suppliers from overseas with lettuce and other vegetable shortages currently affecting the industry.

Neal Kelly, Henderson fresh foods director

Local suppliers are being invited to enter across five categories including Enjoy Local Supplier of the Year, CSR focused Tomorrow Matters, Best Direct to Store Supplier, Brand Innovation Award and Overall Supplier of the Year.

Last year, the overall supplier of the year award was given to Willowbrook Foods who supply a wide-range of products such as creamy mash potato and potato, leek and bacon gratin from the enjoy local range, as well as the Green Vegetable Medley for The Kitchen range sold throughout Spar and Eurospar stores.

Since 2016 the total number of Northern Ireland farmers, growers and food producers supplying to the Spar and Eurospar’s network has increased to over 20 local suppliers providing produce for 168 enjoy local lines.

The importance of local sourcing has never been greater, with some retailers unable to fill their vegetable shelves due to adverse weather conditions across Europe.

Henderson fresh foods director Neal Kelly explains: “We primarily source from local growers, and only look to further fields if absolutely necessary: Recently, we have seen the difficulties that can arise for supermarkets depending on suppliers from overseas with lettuce and other vegetable shortages currently affecting the industry.

“Championing our local suppliers and seasonal produce helps us to minimise this kind of disruption and we hope that suppliers of all sizes will welcome the opportunity to shine a light on their successes and put themselves forward for entry to the local supplier awards.”

The rise in innovation of local products has contributed to the introduction and expansion of new and existing ranges for the company.

Launched in 2016, The Kitchen range features products from four local suppliers while the popular enjoy local range was further developed in 2016 to include lines from a total of 25 local suppliers.

These new products, coupled with the rebrand of the Fresh Vegetable range, have contributed to a significant sales increase in 2016.

Neal Kelly is confident that rewarding local suppliers and maintaining strong relationships with them is key to delivering great ranges to customers.

He said: “The core focus for us at the Henderson Group has always been to source and promote local produce as much as possible. Listening to our customers, it is clear that provenance and traceability is important to them and so supporting our local producers enables us to better meet customer needs.

“We are so fortunate in Northern Ireland to have an abundance of excellent suppliers, from primary producers right through to smaller, artisan companies who are breaking into the market and these awards allow us to stop and applaud the brilliant work that they do all year round.”

As always, an esteemed panel of judges has been formed and tasked with the difficult challenge of selecting this year’s winners. This includes, Joy Alexander, head of food technology at CAFRE; Sam Butler, food and drink columnist; David Elliott, rditor of Ulster Business Magazine; Freda Magill, UFU Rural Affairs Committee chairperson.

Outside of the awards, Spar will have a significantly increased presence at the four day agri extravaganza with the return of the hugely popular enjoy local marquee.

Here, showgoers will find lots of games and activities including live cookery demonstrations with celebrity chef Paula McIntyre and even some ‘giant’ surprises with special guest appearances from Belfast’s favourite ice hockey players.

Also making a return to this year’s show is the Spar Arena, the home of family entertainment at Balmoral. Kids can try their hand at performing circus tricks with lessons from leading performers or sit back and watch one of the unmissable dog shows. The fully functional Spar store will be bigger again this year, where visitors can pick up all the essentials.

Sales and marketing director, Paddy Doody explained that Spar was looking forward to returning to the Balmoral Show as a platinum sponsor.

“The Balmoral Show is by far the highlight in the calendar of Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry and so it’s a natural fit for us to hold our local supplier awards at the show and invest heavily in the event.

“We are delighted to be back on board as a platinum sponsor for the seventh consecutive year and welcome the decision taken by RUAS to expand to a four day show. We hope visitors enjoy the packed programme of activities we have on offer and look forward to meeting them over a successful four days exhibiting at the show.”