Retailers must invest in local firms and share their practical advice

Murgrave NI trading director says NI has no shortage of homegrown, high-quality food and drinks brands

By Julie Cherry, Trading Director, Musgrave NI
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 8:00 am
Julie Cherry, trading director, Musgrave NI
Julie Cherry, trading director, Musgrave NI

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the origins of their food.

According to a recent study by marketing agency The Foundation, 93% of Northern Ireland customers are now actively seeking out locally-produced food and drink brands.

This is down to a number of reasons including a desire to reduce food miles, improve traceability and support the local economy.

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Northern Ireland has no shortage of homegrown, high-quality food and drinks brands, and more are appearing every year. As our local suppliers aim to scale and grow their businesses, it is important that retailers provide not just investment, but also practical support by sharing their knowledge and requirements.

Currently across our nearly 300 stores, Musgrave NI works with more than 3,000 local farmers, in partnership with over 150 local suppliers and we sell nearly 3,000 local products.

The Musgrave team have recently made a number of successful deals with new local suppliers supporting them through their growth journey, and we have also renewed larger deals with current suppliers who we have already guided through the development process.

However, the deals are not just important to these local suppliers in terms of investment, but also in advice and support. As a 145-year old business, Musgrave has seen it all, and as a result, we have the knowledge and skills to help producers starting out in the world of food and drink.

In 2020 we partnered with McAtamney’s, a family business by father and son team Oran and Declan McAtamney based in Garvagh to create an exclusive range of evening meals and sides made from local ingredients, branded SimpliDish. During the development of the products, the Musgrave quality assurance team were on hand to provide practical advice on everything from processes to equipment to help the business scale up.

SimpliDish has been a huge success for McAtamney’s, allowing them to invest £200,000 in new chilling, cooking, packing equipment and the remodeling of their current facility as well as the introduction of a second shift cycle, doubling their employment numbers at the production facility. The SimpliDish brand is now worth £1.6m in retail sales and we have exciting plans to extend this range further this year across our Centra and Mace stores increasing sales by a projected £250,000.

Craigavon-based Karri Kitchen is one of our newest local suppliers providing healthy South-East Asian style ready meals. These tasty and nutritious meals were a hit at the NI Food and Drink Awards winning the Healthier Product Innovation Award and Highly Commended in the Small Company Award.

This supplier has expanded from a one-person operation in a home kitchen to a company employing 25 people at a purpose-built site in Craigavon. Originally stocked in our SuperValu Fruitfield store, the growth has allowed the business to supply 23 SuperValu and Centra stores across NI.

Going from strength to strength, the retail sales of the Karri Kitchen products across the Musgrave estate are now worth £250,000 and the company has its sights firmly set on future growth targeting the buoyant healthy ready meal market.

Most recently, local drinks brand Cocktail Keg Company, secured a £500,000 deal with Musgrave NI creating nine new jobs. Pivoting through the pandemic from servicing hospitality venues to targeting supermarkets, the Belfast-based company has seen exponential growth opening new offices at the Innovation Factory whilst retaining their production at Bankmore Square in the city. The premixed cocktails are now available in our SuperValu and Centra across the region and we look forward to seeing this innovative company grow.

As a homegrown, family-owned company, Musgrave has always been focused on supporting our local suppliers, stocking local produce and investing in the NI economy. It is this focus that has led us to establishing a strong and traceable supply chain which has served us well during these past few challenging years.

We are constantly on the lookout for small, local food and drinks producers with the ability to scale up and we are proud to work with them hands on to help them develop their businesses and realise their potential.